' l ' UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
Allerton Park Institute
The person charging this material is re-
sponsible for its return on or before the
Latest Date stamped below.
Theft, mutilation, and underlining of books
are reasons for disciplinary action and may
result in dismissal from the University.
University of Illinois Library
ii IP. o o
tUU f., &
DPR 9 '} 1C
hi i\ & O U
MAY 2 19 >3
W 1 01370
Papers presented at an Institute
conducted by the
University of Illinois
Graduate School of Library Science
November 1-4, 1964
Rolland E. Stevens
The Illini Union Bookstore
Copyright (g) 1965 by
The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Lithographed in U.S.A. by
EDWARDS BROTHERS, INC.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Archival administration has been paid scant attention by li-
brarians and by teachers of library science. In spite of its resem-
blance, at least in externals, to the management of libraries, it has
been the historians who first appreciated the value of archives and
who developed principles and methods for their administration.
Recognition by librarians of this important kindred study is long over-
due. There are signs that in our universities we are emerging from
the stage in which the task of preserving and arranging the past
records of the institutions is given to a semi-retired professor of
Greek or medieval history.
For its llth Allerton Park Institute, therefore, the faculty of
the Graduate School of Library Science of the University of Illinois
chose the topic, "University Archives." The task of dividing the topic
into convenient parts, securing speakers, inviting participants, and
attending to the many details of a conference fell to a Planning Com-
mittee of the School's faculty: Mr. Robert B. Downs, Miss Thelma
Eaton, Mr. Herbert Goldhor, and the editor. Happily, the Committee
was able to get the advice and help of Mr. Maynard Brichford, Ar-
chivist of the University of Illinois. The suitable division of the topic
and the securing of able persons to participate in the program largely
followed his suggestions, since he was much better acquainted with
both the subject and the leaders of the field than were the members
of the Committee. With his counsel, the Committee feels that some of
the ablest archivists in the United States were invited to take part on
the program. Their acceptance of assignments and their willingness
to take time from their heavy programs to prepare and deliver papers
at the Conference resulted almost entirely from a desire to further
the recognition of the profession of archival management, particularly
when that recognition came from the sister discipline of library
If the sharing of mutual interests by these two professions is
overdue, it may be hoped that this Allerton Park Institute at least
fostered a friendship. Most of the conferees were university li-
brarians whose duties now, or soon will, include the management of
their institution's archives. Not only did they show great interest
and ask many questions in the meetings, but generally they also indi-
cated some surprise at the degree of independent development of this
kindred field and at the difference between the principles governing
the management of archives and those with which they were already
At the final session of the conference, Mr. Brichford asked for
opinions about the need for training future archivists. In his report
of this session, he noted that:
The participants agreed 1) on the need for special training for
university or "small" archivists, 2) that the training should in-
clude formal training in archival theory and practical work with
materials, and 3) that Library School students need some archival
training, if only to enable them to distinguish archival material.
They did not agree on the type of training, but suggested three
1 - a series of training institutes like the Allerton sessions with
emphasis on work with archival materials similar to the
American University National Archives courses.
2 - an elective course or courses in a Library School.
3 - a special curriculum in the Library School with courses in
historical research methods, public administration, archival
principles and techniques and library science.
Most archivists are dissatisfied with the existing training and
there is an increasing demand for archivists. The main problem
is that a competent archivist needs an interest in research, a
graduate degree in history and practical work experience. Short
courses and electives provide training, but do not equip one with-
out this background to manage an archival program.
Besides the counsel of Mr. Brichford, the Planning Committee
wishes to acknowledge also the help of the following persons in making
the conference a success and in bringing the papers to published
form: Mr. Eugene H. Schroth, Allerton House; Mr. Hugh M. Davison,
Division of University Extension; Mrs. Ruth Spence, Library School
Library; and Mrs. Bonnie Noble and Miss Jean Somers, Graduate
School of Library Science. While many of the advantages of attending
the conference cannot be made available to those who are able only to
read the published papers, nevertheless it is our hope that readers of
this volume will find ideas and methods which they may apply at their
Holland E. Stevens
Chairman, Planning Committee
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HISTORY AND THEORY OF ARCHIVAL PRACTICE
Oliver W. Holmes 1
ORGANIZING, STAFFING AND EQUIPPING A UNIVERSITY
*J. E. Boell
Thornton W. Mitchell 22
THE COLLECTING OF ARCHIVAL MATERIALS AT CORNELL
Edith M. Fox 36
APPRAISAL AND PROCESSING
Maynard Brichford 46
Harold W. Tribolet 62
THE REFERENCE USE OF ARCHIVES
Clifford K. Shipton 68
A SCHOLAR'S VIEW OF UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
Laurence R. Veysey 82
*We regret that Mr. Boell's manuscript did not arrive in time for
inclusion in this publication.
HISTORY AND THEORY OF ARCHIVAL PRACTICE
Oliver W. Holmes
Knowledge exists in two forms: (1) "active knowledge," mean-
ing that to be found in the brains of living human individuals and
therefore available to them at any given moment as bases for actions,
and (2) "passive (or potential) knowledge," which exists in the great
reservoir of documents in which have been recorded the experiences,
observations, thoughts, and discoveries of other men, chiefly those
of the past.
Human progress has paralleled and, seemingly, been dependent
upon the growth and availability of this great reservoir of "passive
knowledge." The human race is believed to have existed for hundreds
of thousands of years on this planet with much the same physical and
mental capacities as today, but civilization, as we think of it, dawned
only between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, and, seemingly was made
possible by the invention of writing. It was writing that first pre-
served records through time and permitted the beginning of a reser-
voir of passive knowledge. Until then a man had only his own
observations and experiences to guide him or at most traditions going
back a few generations and limited in place to a small neighborhood.
Each generation, instead of standing on the shoulders of previous
generations, almost had to begin all over again. Only through the
invention of writing did it become possible to pass along from genera-
tion to generation an ever accumulating body of passive knowledge
from which man can draw when necessary to increase the body of
active knowledge at his command.
The custody of this great, and ever increasing, reservoir of
passive knowledge is the responsibility of the archivist and the li-
brarian. They must preserve it safely and impartially, and they
must ever seek better ways to make it increasingly available to
mankind so that it becomes part of the active knowledge by which they
Instead of the two terms "archivist" and "librarian," there
should be a single word to designate these priests because this
greatest treasure of mankind for which they have responsibility is an
indivisible whole. There are differences between archives and the
normal holdings of libraries, which call for differences in adminis-
The author is Executive Director, National Historical Publications
Commission, Washington, D. C.
tration, but the two are complementary parts of this vast reservoir of
passive knowledge and should not be too completely divorced. Each
helps to interpret the other, and the priests should be knowledgeable
The word "archives," although very old on the European con-
tinent, is relatively foreign to the English language where the word
"records" has always meant much the same thing both in common
law and in common parlance. The foreign word was beginning to be
used early in the nineteenth century by self-conscious scholars, es-
pecially historians, to refer to old records seemingly preserved for
their special benefit. One cannot help feeling this usage of the term
was in a way associated with the Romantic movement in its first
appearance both in England and in America. Its more frequent usage
later in the century can be traced to the influence of history scholars
returning from the seminars of Leopold von Ranke and his students
at German universities. But the common, every-day working term in
the English language continued to be "records." The terminology of
the archival profession in English is still unstable among those who
consider themselves professionals, and of course there is even more
confusion in the layman's mind and all working in this area must be
constantly aware of this confusion.
The words "record," or "records," in early English law, and
today, have the sense of a writing or documents deliberately pre-
served, and often deliberately created, to transmit a message in
time ( Latin-recordari; to be mindful of, or to remember) . Writings
also preserved unintentionally become records in time. Records,
therefore, are documents recording what has taken place. The action
is over. Any document becomes a record if it is preserved after the
Records deliberately created and preserved by an office, an
agency, or an organization (or less common, and less accepted, by a
family or an individual) are its archives. Not all records "created"
by an office or agency become part of its archives. The definition
says "created and preserved by." All offices, agencies, and other
record-creating organizations produce records, such as outgoing
letters, commissions, orders, et cetera, which they properly send
out or distribute to others. These may or may not become parts of
other archival bodies. They are part of the archives of the creating
agency only when found in the form of "record-copies" that it has
deliberately preserved. Also, an office or organization may receive
communications and other writings that it does not preserve that is,
consciously file as a record for future reference. These usually go
out as waste paper. In other words, an agency's archives are those
documents deemed worth keeping or filing for possible future use.
Archives may be categorized or classified in terms of their
creating agencies. Thus we have:
1. Public archives or public records those created by federal,
state, and local governing bodies. Only since we have had democratic
governments deriving their powers from the governed have these
been public records in the sense of belonging to the people, that is,
of being publicly owned, as well as in the sense of being open and
accessible to the public for reference. Under monarchical govern-
ment they belonged to the king, but he might by his grace make some
of them "public records" in the sense that his subjects were given
the right to see them. The term came into use in this sense in
Medieval England with respect to records of the king's courts, but
was by no means applicable to the administrative records of other
governing bodies of the Crown.
2. Institutional and organizational archives (often semi-public).
These may include the records of political parties, patriotic societies,
clubs, charitable institutions or organizations, learned societies,
foundations, non-profit corporations, and the like. Especially im-
portant categories, having a long history, are the archives of: (a)
churches and religious organizations; and (b) educational institutions,
particularly colleges and universities.
3. Business archives that is, the records of corporations and
unincorporated businesses. Usually private, they may be affected
with a public interest, especially when in such a category as public
utilities. These may also, of course, include mutual and cooperative
4. Family and personal archives wholly private in character.
Some assemblages of these may have the characteristics of archival
bodies and should be handled and administered as such. Others,
however, are isolated or selected documents not preserved in any
special order or they have lost such order as they might once have
been given. Often families have mixed them hopelessly or picked
them over before releasing them, and they are better thought of as
family or personal "papers."
This leads us to one of the basic characteristics of archives,
their special relationship to their creator. They are the documents
of some creating agency and have a special meaning because of that
fact. A second characteristic is that they were created in the course
of official business, so to speak. Their purpose was to get things
done, and they were saved as the record of what was done. A third
characteristic is that they have (or had) a special order established
by their creator for his own purposes, and, when preserved in that
order, they are revealing of those purposes. Each document is given,
and later exhibits, a relationship to all the others that is meaningful
and that can be easily obscured or lost if this order is tampered
with. A final characteristic is that all of these documents are thus
tied into one complete set or body that is unique and possesses a
kind of "organic" character, a whole which has a meaning different
from and greater than the sum of its parts. This archival body is
known by various terms in different languages; but in French, one of
the most influential languages in matters archival, it is referred to
as the fonds. We often use this term in English because we have no
really satisfactory equivalent. The terms "archive group," used at
the British Public Record Office, and "record group," used at Na-
tional Archives in Washington and elsewhere in America, may refer
to the same natural body but often refer to larger divisions of hold-
ings more arbitrarily bounded for administrative convenience.
Out of the basic characteristics just enumerated, several
famous archival principles of arrangement are derived. First, the
archives of a given archival creating agency must not be intermingled
with those of other creating agencies. This is the principle called by
the French respect des fonds, meaning a respect for the natural body
of documentation left by a creating agency and reflecting its work.
Keep it just that. Do not let documents drift away from it. Do not
let alien documents get into it.
The second principle is that the archival accumulation of the
creating agency should be retained in its original organization pat-
tern or structure, that is, the pattern of arrangement reflecting its
growth and its use when still a live, active organism, so to speak.
This is the principle of the sanctity of the original order (1'ordre
primitif) . The two principles together add up to the principle of
provenience ( provenance) in its complete sense although this term
can be misleading, when, as is often the case, it is used as the equiva-
lent of only the first of these principles, that is, respect des fonds.
Maintaining a body of archives according to these principles is what
we mean when we talk about respecting "archival integrity."
The second of these principles, the sanctity of the original
order, since it goes a step further than merely respect for the fonds,
is the most difficult of the two to carry into execution. Often a body
of records has been so tampered with that the original order is ob-
scured and its restoration, if not impossible, is difficult and time-
consuming. There is a temptation to rearrange the documents
according to some other principle, which, if the new principle can be
agreed upon (not always an easy matter) , is also a difficult and time-
consuming, and therefore expensive, operation. When the original
order is completely lost, such rearrangement becomes necessary,
but this is very rarely the case. If it is unavoidable, it will be ac-
cepted reluctantly and with the full realization that, although com-
posed of the same documents (the same molecules, so to speak) one
has a new and different body of records with new meanings brought
out by the new relationships, but with many of the old meanings lost
It is sometimes argued that the interests of this generation,
which may be entirely different from the interests of those who
created the records, should have precedence, and that in such a case
the records should be rearranged in whatever order might seem best
suited to serve current interests. But the interests of the next genera-
tion might change; and the interests of any generation are not single.
One will find many conflicting interests and to decide on the over-
riding one at any one time will prove to be difficult. Some will de-
mand the chronological approach, others a geographical approach,
and still others some topical approach. It is my belief that these and
all other approaches can best be served by rearrangements on paper
in the form of finding aids calendars, subject indexes, and special
lists of different kinds. One cannot be sure, but it is possible, that
modern information retrieval systems may make possible great
variety in approaches to a body of archival material. The cost of
putting the information into the machine will not be a small cost, you
may be sure, but neither is the cost of rearranging a body of records
according to some arbitrary principle which henceforth makes easy
only one approach and discourages all others. My main point is that
these rearrangements on arbitrary principles are always possible
later if by experience they prove necessary, whereas the arrange-
ment according to the provenance principle once lost cannot be re-
trieved by machines or humans. The custodian has thrown away,
almost as though the records were destroyed, the unique insights
offered by the way in which the creating agency grouped and filed the
documents as it acted upon them.
Others will need to carry further the consideration of these
general principles and their application in the field of "University
Archives." They have been dealt with here because they throw light
on the nature of archives as over against collected informational
materials, chiefly printed, which are the traditional responsibility of
the librarian. It appears that these areas of responsibility can be
more sharply separated in theory than they usually are in practice,
and that together they make up the whole of recorded experience
which constitutes the growing reservoir of passive knowledge to be
available whenever needed in the service of mankind.
The history of archives and archives administration is im-
portant for archivists, chiefly because it helps them to fix their
present position in the development of their profession and thus to
chart their course for the future with greater confidence. If I seem
to you to start further back than is necessary, I would answer that
the archivist must take the long view. His work is for the ages to
come and it helps him to know what past ages and past archivists
have done for and against the records of the past.
The first writings appear to have been records; in fact, the
need to keep records appears to have led to the development of
writing. Our earliest writings are records kept in the temples and
in the courts of the rulers. Priests and kings were closely related
in antiquity, and in some cases king and priest were one and court
and temple were one. Inventories had to be kept of the ruler's
property his men, his weapons, his stock of supplies. Records had
to be kept of offerings made or taxes (usually in kind) collected. It
was easy to draw a picture of most of these things and to make marks
beside them for the number. This picture writing tended to become
conventionalized into signs that stood for the words for the things
counted. Supplementary signs were soon invented to stand for verbs
and adjectives. The further back one gets in any preserved form of
writing the more likely it is to be of this nature. It is well illus-
trated in the contents of the recently deciphered Linear B tablets,
the earliest examples of efforts to write the Greek language. Only
the initiates in the kings' courts or in the temples would be able to
interpret these scratchings but as older ones taught the younger ones,
records could be preserved across time and deciphered and the
reservoir of passive knowledge, restricted as it was, came into
Writing was not invented as a vehicle for poetry or story tell-
ing. The old stories and songs were kept alive across the generations
by mnemones ( "remembrancers") , to use the Greek word for an
official that existed in almost all early preliterate societies. It was
only after writing had developed to a very high level indeed that these
songs and stories, as in the example of Homer, could be captured by
the written word and thus incorporated into the reservoir of written
One would expect the earliest preserved writings, consequently,
to be associated with kings' palaces and temples and to be archival
in character, and so they are. They are the clay tablets of Assyria,
Babylonia, and the Hittite Empire from the 3rd millenium B.C. to the
Christian Era. As better-known examples may be mentioned:
1. The Temple Archives of Nippur. This classic Sumerian
site was excavated first by the University of Pennsylvania Museum,
beginning in 1887. Excavations were renewed in 1947, and additional
tablets are still being discovered. There are now over 54,000 tablets,
but tens of thousands of clay tablets discovered in the 1890's are still
2. The Mari Tablets from the Palace of Zimri-Lim. More
than 20,000 tablets were discovered by French expeditions, 1930-
1946. They include an eighteenth century B.C. diplomatic corre-
spondence of much historical significance found in what Was a sort of
chancery room. Many tablets of economic import were discovered
in other rooms where accounting records were found divided ac-
cording to their subject matter.
3. The Boghazekeui Archives, 1500-1200 B.C., from the old
Hittite capital. Most of the texts came from the royal archives and
were central in bringing out of obscurity the whole story of the
4. The Tel-el- Amarna Letters. The first diplomatic archives
to be discovered, these clay tablets were at first a puzzle because
found in Egypt, which was not a clay tablet country. They proved to
be over 300 incoming letters from kings of clay tablet countries of
western Asia to the Emperor Ikhnaton, written a little after 1500 B.C.,
and were part of the royal archives at Amarna. The story of their
dispersal by antiquities dealers and the long, persistent efforts by
scholars, after their importance was realized, to locate these tablets
or fragments of tablets and restore their contents on paper is an
interesting parallel to the dispersal by dealers of modern archival
fonds or natural accumulations of private papers.
Clay tablets were also found associated with the Minoan civili-
zation of the Agean, first early in this century when quantities were
discovered by Sir Arthur Evans in his excavations of the palace of
Minos in Crete, but more recently also on the Greek mainland,
notably in excavations on the west shores of the Peloponnesus of the
palace of Nestor by Carl Blegen, where he designated one room the
"archives room" because of the great number of tablets found there.
These tablets curiously were incised with a linear script instead of
the ubiquitous cuneiform, or wedge-shaped, writing of the civiliza-
tions further east. A surprising discovery, when these tablets were
recently deciphered, was that the language was Greek, thus giving us
Greek writing more than 500 years earlier than any known hitherto
and revolutionizing the interpretation of the Minoan age. One might
wish the Greeks had continued to place their records on clay tablets.
One does not know why this writing disappears suddenly, but evidences
point to invasions which ushered in a dark age lasting a half century.
It is believed the Greeks began once more to keep written records
about 750 B.C., but these early writings on less permanent writing
materials have disappeared.
One could multiply these illustrations. The discoveries of
these archival bodies have represented major advances in the re-
covery of antiquity they contribute far more than unrelated fragments.
Clay tablets are difficult to destroy in dry climates, and so we have
the contents even of waste baskets, disposed of supposedly by being
thrown over the side of the mound more documentation by far for
the 2,000 years before Christ than for the 1,000 years after the
downfall of the Roman Empire. We have governmental records,
religious records, educational records (the temples were the schools
for the scribes, and we have even the clay tablets that represent
their exercise books), business records, and family records. The
clay tablet period teaches us one of our basic lessons, the importance
of a permanent base upon which the message is placed if the records
are to be preserved for the millenia to come. Also, archeologists
like archivists have learned the importance of provenance. An
isolated clay tablet, deprived of its background and associations, has
lost much of its message. But the message that is left is less con-
fusing if the tablet remains alone than when it is arbitrarily associatec
with other tablets under some artificial classification system.
During the classical period of Greece, writings were on white
wooden tablets or on papyrus, which was imported from Egypt, or,
later, on parchment. Much is known about the keeping of archives in
ancient Greece, but the archives themselves, in contrast to those of
the clay tablet civilizations, have not survived because they were on
an impermanent base. A less dry climate than the desert civiliza-
tions may have been a factor, but the chief cause of their destruction
appears to have been fire. A conflagration baked the clay tablets
harder, but wood and paper invited total consumption. There are
records of many fires and some were doubtless deliberately get by
the barbaric invaders who were to destroy so much of our heritage
from both Greece and Rome.
It is known that the records of the city-state of Athens were kept
in the Metroon the Temple of the Mother of the Gods in the Agora.
The sacred character of these records in Greek eyes is symbolized
by their being placed under the special care of their mother goddess.
These were the originals. Copies of these wooden tablets were often
set up in public places where they could be consulted by all citizens,
and this in ancient days was the usual form of publication. More
permanent laws and constitutions might in rare instances be carved
or chiseled in stone.
Much of our knowledge of Greek history is known not from
records found in Greece but to papyri recovered from the sands of
Egypt. The use of the fibers of the papyrus plant as a base for
writing began very early in the Nile Valley, but papyri containing the
ancient hieroglyphic writings are relatively rare. Most of the papyri
recovered from Egypt date from the period when the Greek language
was dominant. In them are preserved many Greek classics, some of
which would otherwise be lost. Non-literary papyri, however, form
much the greater portion of the material recovered, and much of it
is archival in character and content laws, edicts, judicial proceed-
ings, official correspondence, tax lists, and inventories. Papyri
documents have not been found in extensive related bodies so fre-
quently as have the clay tablets. Possibly they have been more
scattered by dealers in antiquities, for many became available to
Western scholars through their hands in the last century before there
was the great concern for details of provenance that exists today.
However, each piece usually in roll form is generally a longer
document than are those found on clay tablets. Papyrus became a
popular writing material north of the Mediterranean as well as south
of it, probably because it was easier to prepare than parchment and
lighter and less awkward than were wooden tablets. It continued to
be used in Greece and Rome down into the eleventh and twelfth cen-
turies, longer than in Egypt where after 900 A.D. paper, introduced
by the Arabs, became more common. Few papyri survived, however,
in the area north of the Mediterranean. A damper climate, fires, and
deliberate destruction by invaders were the reasons. Survival in
Egypt of this destructible writing material can be attributed mainly
to the dry climate, and thus the important role played by climate
conditions in the preservation of records over the ages is again
Record keeping in antiquity probably reached its height in
Roman Egypt. It made use of record keeping practices imported from
both Greece and Rome but also, and perhaps more important, in-
herited others from a still more ancient Egypt and from the Persian
Empire and its successors of the Hellenistic age, which in turn had
learned from the clay tablet civilizations that preceded them.
Happily also, because so many papyri have been preserved, we are
well informed about Roman Egypt's record offices and their highly
In Roman Egypt there was located at the capital of every nome
or province a central record (the demosia bibliotheke) in which the
various officials were required to deposit their records, or copies of
them. These housed the census records, the land surveys, the tax
rolls, the official diaries (each higher official, from the prefect down,
was required to keep a daybook of official transactions, open to
public inspection) , and the like. Official correspondence received
was made up into composite rolls, the individual sheets of papyrus
being fastened together; so also were the documents handed in by the
public. All these rolls were preserved and numbered, and there were
serial numbers, like page numbers, distinguishing the columns on
each roll, so that reference was easy from registers also kept of the
receipt of these documents. These offices were administered by
bibliophylakes, which you may translate either as archivist or li-
brarian. They were the keepers of the books. A modern archivist,
seemingly, would have found himself at home among these records.
Alexandria, the capital of Egypt, had its central Bibliotheke, to
which were sent copies of the official diaries of the governors in all
the nomes, thus providing a security copy as well as a means for
close supervision. Also fully developed in Egypt was the notarial
system, which also existed earlier both in Greece and in the clay
tablet countries. Again in each nome is found an official responsible
for the operation of the system in that nome, but in each major village
is found a grapheion, a place where contracts were drawn up and
executed, and where a file of these was kept open for inspection.
These public contracts had greater standing than contracts made
between parties unofficially and not made public. Private contracts
could be given a degree of legal standing, if wished, by registration
in which case the contents would be summarized but not revealed in
whole. The Romans in all provinces encouraged "publication" of
contracts by full recording and discouraged private deeds and con-
tracts but never wholly invalidated the latter. Both parties to a
contract were given copies of the original. The originals were made
up into rolls and the rolls numbered. A register ( anagraphe) of all
contracts, in chronological order, was kept on other roles. A notable
body of papyri at the University of Michigan includes the archives of
such an office (the combined grapheion of two villages named Teb-
tunis and Kirkesouche Oros) in which these practices were illustrated.
This notarial system, which became general in the Mediterranean
world, is still a basic feature of all Latin countries in the Old World
and in the New. The practices were illustrated again in old Vincennes
and in Cahokia and Kaskaskia; and how lawyers trained in the English
tradition did wrestle with the problems offered by these records when
we took over New Orleans !
Note use of the Greek form biblio (book) as applied to all
writings in roll form and theke (repository) as the term for library
or archives, whichever you wish to consider it, for there appeared to
be no division or distinction between these two in all antiquity. Some
repositories might hold rolls of archival character almost entirely,
and others contain more rolls of literary character, especially if some
scholar or custodian were interested in collecting them, but the
physical contents looked alike, and our application backward of the
modern terms implies a distinction that had little validity before the
invention or printing.
This picture of Roman record keeping at the provincial and
local levels has been discussed at some length because record
keeping practices did not reach this stage of development again until
perhaps the sixteenth century, and when they were reviewed it was
surprising how the old patterns had persisted. Greeks, and, later,
Arabs brought them into Sicily, that crossroads of the Middle Ages,
and from there they were spread northward by the Norman kings
and the German emperors who successively ruled Sicily.
In Rome itself the first special building for the public records
was erected at the end of the Forum under the protection of the
temple of Saturn, as early as 509 B.C. It was intended especially as
a place where the people could consult the laws. Most of the older
records of the Republic are supposed to have perished in the burning
of Rome by the Gauls in 309 B.C. Other buildings served in the
interim before the building in 78 B.C. of the great Tabular ium, a
most impressive archives building that closed the west end of the
Forum, just below the Temple of Jupiter, which temple was the
symbol of the sovereignty and power of Rome. Parts of the great
Tabularium still survive, having been incorporated by Michelangelo
into the present Palazzo del Senatore. There were other tabular ia in
the city of Rome and tabular ia in most of the provinces, which held
the tabulae public ae, the public documents of the governing bodies.
Roman record keeping reached its zenith in the later Empire after
the administrative reforms of Diocletian about 300 A.D. An elaborate
bureaucracy developed, organized into bureaus or officia, for our
words "office" and "official" originated in this period.
Again, we do not have the actual records of the central ad-
ministration of the Roman Empire, and we know of the ways and
places in which they were kept only from non-archival writings of
Roman leaders and from vestiges of their practices as they survived
in the Papal Chancery. For, while record keeping at local level
survived through Egypt and Sicily, as has already been described, it
was the Papal Chancery that served as the link between the ancient
and modern world in administrative organization, procedures, and
record keeping at the top level. The Apostolic Court was organized
from the first on the model of the Roman Imperial Court. It grew up
under its shadow. Its offices paralleled those of the Diocletian Em-
pire. Many churchmen and some Popes had served in their earlier
life, before becoming monks, as officials of the empire, notably Pope
Gregory the Great, 590-604, who made the papacy a political as well
as a religious power. Gregory had served as Prefect of Rome before
entering the service of the Church.
The barbarian kingdoms arising on the ruins of the Roman
Empire in the West copied more or less intelligently the Roman
model, now best represented by the Church. This copying was al-
most inevitable because of their dependence on clerics (thus our word
"clerks") for writing, for, once north of Italy, clerics were almost
the only persons knowledgeable in this art. The chancery of the
Merovingian kings is the best example of this. After the alliance of
Clovis with the Church about 496, he was helped by church officials
especially with chancery matters. The some ninety authentic Mero-
vingian diplomas or charters that survive from successor Merovingian
kings have the character of papal charters. The older originals are
written on papyrus, vellum coming in toward the end of the seventh
We have more such documentation for Charlemagne's rule than
for any other in the Middle Ages. His chancery was wholly staffed by
court chaplains and clerics, and logically, the archives were kept in
the royal chapel. Charlemagne's son and successor, Louis the Pious,
appointed a bishop as his arch chancellor, and bishops continued to
hold office through the Carolingian period and earlier centuries of
the Capetian kings, gaining more and more practical influence in the
administration. As the King's chief secretary, the chancellor handled
appeals and petitions of aggrieved persons (the beginnings of his
judicial functions) as well as the King's political correspondence.
Charlemagne established his palace school to train men to do this
work and called in monks from as far as Italy and England to staff it.
Aside from the courts of the kings and emperors, almost the
only writing throughout the Middle Ages was in the churches and the
monasteries. They served:
1. As centers for the multiplying of copies for use in a day
when copies were made only by hand. This was a major function of
the scriptorium found in almost all monasteries.
2. As archival depositories not only for religious writings but
for records of kings and princes, who deposited them in these sanc-
tified places for security in times of uncertainty.
3. As creators of administrative records of their own. Almost
the only surviving records of real estate and business transactions
for the Middle Ages are those of monasteries. Almost the only nota-
tions of contemporary events are the monastic annals and chronicles,
meagre as they are.
It is to the churches and the monasteries as the chief places of
refuge against the fury and neglect of the Middle Ages that we owe
the preservation of most medieval documents, and, as has been stated,
they are few as compared with those that have survived from antiquity.
Medieval documents are scarce not just because of the ravages
of time but because few were created in the first place. Why?
1. Illiteracy was so widespread few could make records, and
there was not much point to making them when few could read.
2. It was an age of oral government, of the use of rituals and
ceremonies that were to be witnessed by the people, as a substitute
for written records. Laws and edicts were published by proclamation.
Federal courts operated without written law which had almost ceased
to exist. Trials, often by ordeal, and punishments were open so that
the people could actually see justice being carried out. The cere-
monial conveyance of lands by livery of seisin and "beating the
bounds" periodically to preserve the memory of boundaries are
further examples that even carried over into the colonial period of
our own country.
3. Material to write upon (chiefly parchment) was scarce and
expensive, and therefore reserved for only the most important
things, in those days mostly things religious. Old writings were
erased to make way for the new; thus the palimpsest. Paper was
exceedingly scarce until the sixteenth century. Early mills were
very small and the trade secrets were jealously guarded until the
invention of printing so raised the demand that monopolies were
4. Business transactions, which produce such quantities of
modern records, were fewer because of the general self-sufficiency
of communities, and were rarely recorded because they were usually
mere exchanges in kind made locally between neighbors.
The reservoir of passive knowledge built up by the civilizations
of antiquity had been almost overwhelmed by the barbarian way of
life, which knew only the ways of living traditional to a people de-
pending wholly on active knowledge.
But enough passive knowledge survived to begin the reversal,
and there were powerful influences that worked to accelerate it, once
begun. Some of these influences were:
1. The need for writing to harmonize conflicting customs and
traditions or deliberately to choose between them. This began with
the capitularies of Charlemagne's time and triumphed with the revival
of Roman law in Bologna in the twelfth century, which led to reap-
praisal of principles and practices brought in by non-Roman sources
and to the compilation of new codes, which led in turn to written
arguments and the recording of written decisions in the king's courts.
2. The need to transmit actions taken in oral ceremony through
time to future generations, first to facilitate confirmations by suc-
ceeding rulers, and, later, to avoid need of confirmations with each
change in sovereigns, in other words, to give stability to society.
The keeping of copies of charters given by the king also guarded
against forgeries, which were not uncommon in the Middle Ages.
This was the origin of the patent rolls in England. These contained
the documents that were intended to be open to the public, that is
"patent" and so we have our many kinds of "patent" documents today.
Copies of the king's private correspondence began to be kept also.
These became the "close" rolls. Thus the body of passive knowledge
at the Court began to grow. No longer were the kings able to carry
their records around with them in chests as they traveled from one
part of the kingdom to another with their traveling court. They began
to leave some behind in a chapel or fortress, especially those created
by their predecessors that they no longer needed so close at hand.
3. The rise of the towns in the eleventh and twelfth centuries,
almost more than any other movement, marks the passing of the
Middle Ages. As they gained freedom from feudal jurisdiction, they
developed their own government, including courts, markets, and mints,
and of necessity created and preserved in their town hall their own
records, beginning with their town charter. Many famous city ar-
chives in Europe go back to the later Middle Ages, 1200-1500.
4. The practice of keeping notarial records revived, beginning
in Italy in the twelfth century. Once revived it spread rapidly.
Notaries were needed to make and keep contracts and other records
for ordinary people not yet able to make and keep them for them-
selves. Many kept in Italy, France, and Spain in the fourteenth
century are preserved. They begin to furnish a valuable picture of
the life of the people in contrast to that of Church and Court.
5. With the rise of trade and banking operations, the written
record began to invade non-government fields. The late twelfth
century saw the first bills of exchange, letters of credit, and other
negotiable instruments. Bookkeeping, absent from western Europe
since the seventh century, had been preserved in the East and was
reintroduced by Italian merchants with Arabic numbers in the twelfth
century and spread northward with trade. Insurance on merchandise
and marine risks appears in the late fourteenth century. Private
banking begins to play its role in northern Italy and also expands to
the northward largely through close-knit family connections. And so
we have our first surviving private business records since antiquity
dating from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
The Tresor des Chartes, used by successive French kings to
carry their valuable charters with them from place to place for 300
years finally came to rest in the new Sainte Chape lie completed in
1248 on the Isle de la Cite in Paris, being entrusted again to a re-
ligious sanctuary in what was now to become the French capital city.
This may symbolize the end of the ambulatory period for the archives
of the monarchs of that day although Henry VII was still to take his
archives along on his coronation journey into Italy in 1310, where they
were stranded at his death. They are still to be found in great part
at Pisa and Turin. The French kings added to their Tresor in the
chapel from time to time until 1568, the date of the latest accession.
The contents of the Tresor des Chartes were afterwards kept intact
to and through the Revolution and then transferred to the newly es-
tablished Archives Nationales, where they are maintained as a
separate closed fonds to the present day. In similar fashion, as the
residences of other monarchs and their courts became more settled,
stationary archival depositories came into existence at these newly
established capital cities.
The story now, so far as governmental archives are concerned,
is the rise again of bureaucracy in the ministries that grew up under
the absolute monarchs of Europe of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and
eighteenth centuries and of consequent greater creation of and de-
pendance upon records. Expansion of the central government's
services was accompanied by increasing responsibility for field
services as the monarchs struggled to break the local rule of the
feudal aristocracy, marked, for example, in France by the intendant
system. This movement is accompanied by the rise of the paid
professional civil servant instead of officials owning their offices by
inheritance or purchase of some forgotten feudal right to them. These
professional administrators tended to depend more and more on
records for precedent and for systematic and impartial administra-
tion of taxes, justice, lands, and natural resources. They systema-
tized the keeping of records. There was an increased use of the mails
which also led to increased documentation. This period marks the
rapid expansion of the registry system about which much was written
at the time. This is the period that needs to be studied if we are to
understand the record systems introduced into our own government
at the time of its beginnings.
But the records of government still belonged to the king and
not to the people. In the new United States, it is true, the people
theoretically took control of their own in 1776, but in Europe it re-
mained for the French Revolution to establish the principal that the
records belonged to the citizens of a republic. The responsibility of
a State for preserving these records as the peoples' heritage, and for
making them accessible to the people was set forth in the law of June
25, 1794. This law turned the archives established by the French
Assembly for its own records into a central archival depository of
the Republic, the present Archives Nationales. Subordinated to the
Archives Nationales in 1796 were the newly established records in
each of the recently established departements, the first instance of a
state-wide archives system centrally directed.
This is not the place to pursue the story of the French archives
in the nineteenth century, but the patterns of thinking and organization
set in motion by the Revolutionary government were followed by other
European countries that came within the French orbit, notably,
Belgium, The Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, and a number of
other Italian states.
In England, Sweden, Prussia, and Denmark, on the other hand,
central archival establishments evolved out of existing chancery or
ministerial archives. The nineteenth century saw the victory of the
idea of a special public archives service to preserve and administer
a nation's archival heritage. Today there are in Europe central
archival establishments for all national governments. There are
also a vast number of provincial archives, municipal archives, and
archives for other units of local government, which may or may not
be under the close control of a centralized national archival adminis-
tration, in this respect reflecting the degree of centralization or
decentralization of a government generally. In addition to serving an
administrative purpose, these archival agencies began more and more
in the early nineteenth century to serve scholarship as well. At first
legal considerations, that is the rights of the people as set forth in the
records, appear to have motivated revolutionary governments in
opening the archives to their citizens. But the enormous masses of
records of the old regimes that became available in these depositories
turned them into "mines" for historical scholars. Increasing national
consciousness brought increasing use of the records of a nation's
past in writing its history. This trend was further accelerated by the
rise in Germany and rapid spread elsewhere of the school of scientific
history, with its emphasis upon the primacy of documents in the study
and interpretation of the past.
In the nineteenth century, historians came to dominate in the
administration of European archives to such a degree that there was
a tendency in archives administration to concentrate their efforts
and resources on the records of the old regimes, and the facilitating
of research in them, to the neglect of other administrative functions
and the maintenance of meaningful relationships with current govern-
ments. This academic emphasis continued well into the twentieth
century. There has now been in progress for some time a movement
away from this limiting tradition, which movement is in different
stages of progress in different countries. Most of the archival es-
tablishments of the Latin American countries were founded when the
historical tradition was uppermost, with the result that, as a rule,
they are concerned primarily with the records of the colonial and
wars of independence periods and have in custody few, if any, records
of their national periods. Their holdings tend to be static in character.
The Public Records Office of Canada, founded in 1871, was in some-
what the same position in the years before World War II, but has
moved rapidly forward in recent years.
In the United States the idea of centralized custody of noncur-
rent public records, as brought back by scholars returning from their
education and research experiences in the European continent, was
colored by the historical tradition still dominant in many continental
institutions. Historians especially thought of archival establishments
mainly in terms of centralized repositories of available materials for
research. Those state archival agencies that were established in the
earlier years of this century tended to be closely associated with or
auxiliary to state historical departments or divisions (or in the Mid-
west to the state historical societies, which are there state supported
rather than private organizations) . The development of many of
these archival agencies into broader spheres of usefulness to the
government that supports them has often been handicapped by this
association. The archives program has too often tended to be thought
of as just another service to history squeezed in by these busy
The National Archives in Washington stands on a broader founda-
tion and symbolizes the union of the cultural and administrative
traditions in archival administration and service. Most of the credit
for its establishment must be given to the promotional work of his-
torians and scholars generally, many of them still acting in the cur-
rent of the historical tradition that has been described. But there was
also a strong movement, sponsored by government officials and
administrators, for a building and administration to provide adequate
space and special care for the rapidly accumulating noncurrent
records that agencies found necessary to keep indefinitely for legal
and administrative use but that were either in the way for current
operations or difficult to preserve and protect physically and to
maintain in accessible conditions and usable order when stored in
outlying locations. There were a few scholars, such as Dr. J. Frank-
lin Jameson and Dr. Waldo G. Leland, who saw and understood both
forces and acted to bring them together in support of legislation
broad enough to serve both interests.
It is also pertinent in this account of archival development to
note that in the United States the historical society and the library
movements got under way much earlier than the archival movement
and that, when the latter was still almost nonexistent, the historical
societies and librarians represented strong vigorous groups eager to
be of maximum service to the community or government they served.
As research institutions, they began developing collections of manu-
script sources as well as printed materials. Especially if they were
state libraries or state supported historical societies, as a service
to the governments that supported them, many began to salvage older
official documents of exceptional interest. Laws or executive orders
legalized such transfers in some cases, but in others there was
merely mutual recognition that such transfers would promote the
preservation and availability of the records. Where state supported
libraries or societies were nonexistent, official records were fre-
quently turned over to private libraries and societies as more ap-
propriate custodial agencies than government offices engrossed in
their current business.
Often official records were merely added to the existing manu-
script collections and treated, as were other manuscripts, without
much realization of the special tenets that should govern in their
custody, arrangement, and use. In other cases, however, the official
records were maintained as a special unit, and in a few instances,
separate archives divisions grew up within the state historical soci-
eties or state libraries and became to a certain extent the official
archival agencies for the state. Usually, however, archival functions
in these agencies have been limited to custody and reference service
on a limited body of older records. In the very few cases where a
more rounded program has developed, the archives division has had
to reach a status of considerable professional autonomy, subject to
the librarian only in administrative matters. Broad-minded li-
brarianship and strong archival leadership are the prerequisites if
this is to happen.
This interim stage of development is also reflected in the ex-
perience of the federal government. The Library of Congress, under
authority of a clause inserted in an appropriation act of 1903, began
to take custody of and place in its Division of Manuscripts selected
records from other agencies of the federal government. These were
often single items or small groups of papers of outstanding historical
value that were selected from extensive files left in the custody of
the agencies. As the Library began, however, to receive offers from
the agencies of larger bodies of older records, it came more fully to
understand the magnitude and special character of the archives of the
federal government and it swung its support to the movement for a
specialized archival agency and building. In the words of the Li-
brarian's Annual Report for 1911, ". . . the Library can not sacrifice
its space to the storage of public papers which properly belong to
other Government offices. Such papers should go to a national ar-
chives depository, and it is gratifying to see that a serious movement
is on foot to erect a building for this pur pose. "1 Today the Library
of Congress continues to serve as a great repository for private
manuscript collections and nongovernmental archival materials,
but it has released, or is gradually releasing, to the National Archives
when they can be recognized and easily separated, such official rec-
ords of the federal government as it has cared for in this interim.
The work of both institutions, and their potential for growth and
service in the future, have, it is believed, been strengthened by this
logical division of fields.
Both in the federal government and in the states, the older
libraries and historical societies entered this field because a vacuum
existed. It was a logical extension of their interests at the time and
resulted in the preservation and fuller use of many valuable records.
But it was, historically speaking, a transition stage, peculiar to the
United States (and to Australia, New Zealand, and a few other coun-
tries where the situation was similar) . The opposite situation pre-
vails on the European continent where, because they were earlier in
the field, the archival agencies generally have the custody also of
Because in some of our states the archive authorities were
concerned mostly with the older records and the interests of scholars,
the situation with respect to records still in the offices and depart-
ments of the state government grew progressively worse, until a
third party entered the picture the forces representing administra-
tion and management in operating agencies. The "no man's land"
was the area that particularly interested them. The needs of the
agencies were not being served. Such a move on the part of those
interested in effective records management is always to be expected
when archival agencies concern themselves only with those aspects
of archival work that are associated with research and scholarship.
The management interests have both justice and power on their side.
The original purpose of archival agencies was to meet the archival
heads of the administration that created and maintained them. In any
fully developed modern archival program these needs are met, and
they must be met or the archival program will be cut off from one of
the strongest sources of its support and will deteriorate into a
shrunken appendage of small value. It is not only the records of the
past that it must be concerned with but also the records of the present
and of the future both of which will all too soon become records of
An archival agency, whether serving government or some
private organization, (and universities and colleges are found under
both ) must be both a cultural agency and an administrative or
management agency in its special field. Its services in the cultural
area cannot be fully developed over a period of years unless its
services in the administrative area are effectively performed. Its
services in the administrative area cannot be effectively performed
unless it has an appreciation of the long-term cultural and research
values of the records that are created and used in the living agencies
of government and that must in time be retired either to its custody
or to the ash heap. The cultural and the administrative aspects can-
not be separated. Neither one should be emphasized at the expense
of the other. An archival program remains healthy and draws its
support from both sides only as it effectively performs in its dual
A Note on the Literature of Archival Science
There is no textbook, indeed there is no one general book in
English, or even in other languages, that can be recommended as
surveying the subject of archival theory and practice systematically
and including good bibliographical references for further reading.
Why? Because there is no universal experience.
Writings even of general character tend to be based on the
experiences of the authors with collections with which they are
familiar, in specific institutions, and in specific countries. Their
generalizations are often misleading to, or misunderstood by, ar-
chivists in other countries, and their illustrations and examples are
often outside the experiences even of colleagues in their own countries.
When one describes techniques and procedures relating to books, one
is concerned with identical units that colleagues can know and handle.
But archival bodies are unique, and only a colleague who has lived
with the body used as an illustration, can really understand what is
being said or done about it. Strangers are soon lost in meaningless
But, in a single country there are not enough archivists or
have not been until just recently to create a demand for texts and
manuals that are based upon and explain the special characteristics
of that country's records.
Experience, and the lessons learned from it, tend, therefore to
remain in the head of the practitioner. It may be that to a considerable
degree the work of an archivist is something to be learned by ex-
ample and through practice rather than through books and classroom
teaching. It is a workshop sort of thing. There are operations to
perform that one has to watch and then participate in. One thing
needed, I feel, in teaching archival practice is more laboratory work.
Yet, learning by that method takes a great deal of time, and in addi-
tion, one must find time to pull his experiences together and compare
notes with others and generalize. That is the nature of much of the
writing in the field. You will find it in short articles, and it will con-
sist of accounts of experience with this body of records or that, or
"this is the way we handle this problem at our institution."
The central repository in this country for such articles, for
just over a quarter century now, has been The American Archivist,
the quarterly professional journal of the Society of American Ar-
chivists. It has been a good journal consistently and compares
favorably with, if it does not excel, other journals in other countries,
of which there are about a dozen. These latter are less useful to the
beginner for the reasons mentioned above.
There are in English, however, four books that all archivists
should know and read frequently. Every archivist should analyze and
compare them and know what they have of value and what they lack.
Between them, they will contain most of the theory that one needs.
One will not understand all of it without some practice on his own
account. He will, therefore, reread these books again and again for
the greater understanding that can come only after experience. They
are here listed in the order in which they were published.
1. Muller, Samuel, et al. Manual for the Arrangement and
Description of Archives. (Translated by Arthur H. Leavitt
from the 2nd Dutch edition of 1920.) New York, H. W. Wilson,
1940. (First published in Dutch in 1898 and later translated
into French, German, and Italian.)
2. Jenkinson, Hilary. A Manual of Archive Administration.
New & rev. ed. London, P. Lund, Humphries & Co. Ltd., 1937.
(2nd edition, much revised from the original edition in 1922.)
3. Schellenberg, T.R. Modern Archives; Principles and
Techniques. ( First published in Melbourne, 1956.) Chicago,
University of Chicago Press, 1957. (Also translated into a
number of languages including Spanish, German, and Hebrew.)
4. Ernest, Posner. American State Archives. Chicago, I
University of Chicago Press, 1964.
1. Library of Congress. Report of the Librarian of Congress
and Report of the Superintendent of the Library Building and Grounds
for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1911. Washington, Government
Printing Office, 1911, p. 26.
Thornton W. Mitchell
In recent years, records have become a matter of increasing
concern. For a long time, there have been archival establishments
in which valuable records or presumably valuable records have
been kept. But modern reproducing methods and natural growth have
resulted in more records of less quality for the archivist to deal with.
Since World War n, under the leadership of the federal government,
there has been a concerted effort to reduce the backlog of old rec-
ords, to insure the preservation of valuable records, to make records
and recorded information more accessible to administrators and
researchers, and to create records of high quality. This effort has
been directed toward managing the flood of records and paper work
that threatens to swamp the activities that create and handle them.
There has been discussion for many years about what this effort
should be called, and there have been many names applied to it.
Since it is concerned with the management of records, the term
"records management" seems to be a simple and all-inclusive solu-
tion to the problem of a name.
Colleges and universities have become concerned more recently
than others with their records problems. There have been several
college archives that have attempted to bring valuable material into
their custody; there have been other college archives that have,
passively, received whatever was thrust at them. The mere creation
of a college or university "archives" does not, in itself, solve the
problem. Without a program which identifies the records that go
into the archives and makes some provision for getting them there,
the "archives" are apt to become dumping grounds for material that
no one wants but everyone is afraid to do anything about. The absence
of a program means that the college or university runs the risk of
losing records that should be kept, of keeping records that should be
eliminated, of maintaining records under adverse circumstances, of
fragmenting documentation, and of making it impossible for either the
administrator or historian to benefit from past experience.
We know that records are created. They are then processed
and maintained in some manner, and finally they are disposed of
The author is Assistant State Archivist (State Records) , Division of
Archives and Manuscripts, Department of Archives and History,
Raleigh, North Carolina.
either by destruction or by preservation in an archives. In 1955, the
Second Hoover Commission Task Force on Paperwork Management
calculated that about 70 per cent of the total cost of a record was in
creating it. It would seem reasonable, therefore, to expect that a
program to manage records would start with their creation because
this represents the greatest potential for savings. This usually is
not the manner in which the management of records is approached,
however. Most programs come through the back door by starting
with the disposal phase first.
Although it is almost like locking the barn door after the horse
is stolen (because most of the cost of records has been incurred by
the time they are to be disposed of) , this approach to records through
the disposition phase is reasonable and understandable and, in fact,
may be desirable. It is easy to ascertain when records have outlived
their usefulness, they frequently represent an immediate and acute
problem, the need and the results of doing something about them can
be understood more readily, and disposition is productive of im-
mediate results. In addition, before paper work can be controlled and
managed, someone must know what paper work there is; and the
easiest way to find out is by following the first step in developing
records disposition by making an inventory. Most programs, tn^n,
start with the disposition aspect of records management and too
many of them never get away from it.
A disposition program can go to either of two extremes
everything can be kept or everything can be thrown away after a
period of years. Neither of these extremes is realistic, but one or
the other can easily happen if the disposition program is not carefully
planned. There are several things that can be done with records to
dispose of them; there are some that for historical or administrative
reasons must be kept permanently; there are others that have a rela-
tively short use for the purposes for which they were created but
that need to be kept for longer periods of time because of legal, fiscal,
or similar requirements; and finally, there are records that should
be destroyed after having served the purpose for which they were
Records in the first of these three categories represent, ob-
viously, archival material; the second represents material that should
be stored in such a way that it is readily available, if needed; and
the third is that which can be destroyed. The disposition plan should
provide for all three of these categories of records. It is not enough
for a plan to call for destroying every possible piece of paper and
then keeping the left-over strays as "permanent" records; nor should
the plan fail to describe specifically the material that has archival
value; this material should be identified and provided for to prevent
some unthinking person from destroying it.
The disposition plan is developed by "records scheduling." A
schedule is a document that contains a complete disposition plan for
the unit concerned. Scheduling starts by making a physical inventory
of all records. There is some disagreement that this is either nec-
essary or desirable; but if the schedule does the things that need to
be done, the person who prepares it must know what records there
are. And no records can be destroyed without knowing what the
pattern of documentation within that unit or that institution is. There
are some short cuts that can be taken; but the fact remains that it is
impossible to evaluate records realistically and intelligently without
full information about all of the records and without knowing what
will be kept as well as what will be thrown away. If permanent rec-
ords are considered to be the material that is left after everything
possible is thrown away, a schedule can be written without making a
complete inventory. But if the positive approach of identifying and
selecting archival material first and then throwing everything else
away is taken, the schedule must start with an inventory of all
The inventory should show several things. First, of course, is
the name or the title of the records being inventoried, their inclusive
date span, the volume, and the location. It may be advisable to show,
also, the manner in which the records are arranged, their relationship
to other records, the extent to which the record or the information is
duplicated, and other factors that may affect the retention of the rec-
ord. Analysis of the inventory will give other information as well;
for example, if part of a records series is stored, the inclusive date
of the stored records will usually give some indication of the period
of time after which the records are used less frequently.
Following the inventory, the records are appraised. That is,
they are examined from the point of view of their legal, fiscal, ad-
ministrative, and historical value. Appraisal is deciding whether a
record should be kept and for how long and why, or whether it should
be destroyed and after how long and why. All of the potential uses
and values of the records should be considered in making this deter-
mination. And in reviewing potential uses of records, modern
methods of processing information have made it feasible to preserve
voluminous records whose sheer bulk formerly made use of the data
they contained impracticable. With the availability of electronic
tabulating equipment and other high speed devices, it is no longer
desirable to destroy or to authorize the destruction of records solely
on the grounds that their bulk prevents exploitation of the valuable t
information in them.
Both in the appraisal process and in the succeeding step-
writing the schedule the personnel who use the records should be
consulted. Their opinions, however, should not be final because they
may have an exaggerated idea of the value of the records. But they
should not be ignored in the entire process, because they work with
and know the records and know, further, how the records are used.
The schedule should then be prepared in such a form that it may
be referred to readily by those who use it. It should show:
1. Records that are to be kept permanently because they have
long-term historical or administrative value. Remember, however,
that there are more records designated as permanent than anyone is
ever going to want to use and that they tell a lot of things that no one
wants to know. There has been some professional discussion about
the very small percentage of "permanent" records. Like any
generality, this low percentage may be misleading; but the fact re-
mains that there are relatively few records that are worth keeping a
long time. These permanent records should go eventually into the
archives for preservation.
2. Records that are to be destroyed and after what period of
3. Records that may be moved to an intermediate storage area
after their immediate usefulness is ended but before their final
disposition may be effected. This final disposition may be preserva-
tion in the archives or it may be destruction. A college or a univer-
sity may not be large enough to justify both an archives and an
intermediate storage area (records center) . But the archivist would
be well advised to offer this records center service; transfers into
the archives are simplified, and the possibility of accidental destruc-
tion of valuable material is minimized. The archivist will find that
he is handling the destruction of almost all records that are destroyed;
This will, unless the volume is too great, permit him periodically to
check the schedule to be sure that it does not call for the destruction of
material that should be kept.
4. Records that are to be microfilmed prior to destruction or,
in the case of essential records, for dispersal to a security location.
Microfilming is expensive (in North Carolina we have computed an
average cost of $28 per cubic foot to microfilm records) , and it
should be used to reduce the volume of records only when the origi-
nals must be kept so long that the storage cost offsets the filming
cost or when the originals are of such form or size that they cannot
be readily preserved in the original. These standards do not, of
course, apply to microfilming to obtain a security copy of an essential
5. Records that should be reviewed or "screened" prior to
destruction. Many small administrative and organizational units
have records that do not fit clearly into either the "destroy" or "save"
category. These should be looked over by a competent person before
they are destroyed. This review may result in all or almost all of
the material being destroyed; but there may be some that is worth
keeping. This review is time consuming and costly; but it will in-
sure the preservation of stray items that could easily be thrown
The schedule may do other things. It may, for example, provide
for the security protection of essential records; and it may even go
so far as to provide for reorganizing the files in such a way that a '
reasonable retention period may be more readily applied. But the
schedule should provide for the disposition of all records, regardless
of whether that disposition is preservation in an archives, destruction,
storage prior to destruction or transfer to an archives, or micro-
filming. Unless the schedule does all of these, the archives may
become a dumping ground and it may prove virtually impossible to
obtain transfers of future accumulations of valuable records.
After the schedule has been drafted, it should be discussed with
the persons whose records are concerned. In these discussions, it
should be remembered that many people have an exaggerated idea of
the value of their records and may be defensive about them. In addi-
tion, many of the immediate custodians of records neither see nor
understand the relationship of their records to others. Usually, the
persons immediately responsible for records are conservative in
their estimation of the period of time after which they can be disposed
of. It is better, however, to accept what may seem to be an unduly
long time with the hope that it can be shortened later than it is to
risk antagonizing someone who may block the entire program.
The schedule should be approved before it is put into effect.
This approval should come from the highest possible authority the
dean of a school, the president or chancellor of a college or univer-
sity, the head of an agency. And, if the schedule applies to a state
college or university, there may be legal requirements for approval
In North Carolina, the state colleges and the University of North
Carolina have the same status as government agencies. Two of these
have been scheduled in the manner already described. Because it
might be years before the other institutions are scheduled, the De-
partment of Archives and History developed a standard which contains
suggested retention and disposition periods for major records series.
This College and University Records Retention and Disposition
Schedule is intended to serve as a guide to their disposition. It
schedules not only for destruction, it schedules for retention and for
transfers to the college archives. It also suggests microfilming for t
the security protection of essential records. By implication, it sug-
gests what records should be created.
The schedule is the keystone in records disposition. Without a
plan, transfers to the archives and the destruction of obsolete material
are haphazard, and, in all probability, material will be saved that
should be thrown away and material will be thrown away that should
But assuming that the schedule is prepared and approved and is
placed in operation, what comes next? In many instances nothing!
Many "records management" programs get to the point that they
handle disposition effectively, and there they stop.
Although records disposition may eliminate accumulation of
obsolete records promptly, identify and insure the preservation of
records with permanent values, and save equipment and space, it does
not really solve many records problems. It does not improve the
quality of the records, for example, nor does it stop the creation of
unnecessary records; it neither makes the recorded information
more readily available nor does it simplify the procedures that re-
sult in the creation and processing of records. Records management
includes a great deal more than records disposition, but with records
disposition as the point of departure it is possible to go into some of
the more sophisticated techniques that have been developed to manage
records and paper work effectively.
The schedule can be the initial step that will lead to effective
management of the total life cycle of records. After it has been ap-
proved, the persons who apply it find that the manner in which the
material is filed rather than the provisions of a schedule control the
disposition of it. And if a lot of transitory material is filed with
material of more enduring value, it will all be kept for the longer
period of time. So the next logical step is into the files maintenance
One of the major problems with filing is that most of it is done
by persons who were hired because of their competence in some other
activity. Most filing is done by persons who were employed because
they were good stenographers, good typists, or good something else.
And if filing is the major duty of an employee, that employee is
probably among the lowest paid. It is little wonder, then, that files
and filing represent a major records problem. Not only are filing
systems inefficient, but widely scattered duplicate files tend to frag-
ment information and waste filing and finding time.
Files are usually arranged numerically, alphabetically, or by
some classification system. Numerical files are those which are ar-
ranged according to a preassigned number or by a number that is
arbitrarily assigned to identify the document or documents. Numeri-
cally arranged files are simple and are easily expandable. Their
principal drawback is that numbers usually have no relation to the
subject or the name of the material filed, with the result that a
numerical file almost universally requires an index of some type.
Alphabetical files are usually name files and are arranged by name
regardless of whether they relate to person, place, or thing. They
are simple, but they may be difficult to expand because it is not al-
ways possible to anticipate within what letter of the alphabet addi-
tional material may belong. Some efforts have been made to combine
numerical and alphabetical files, but the combinations usually have
the drawbacks of both and the advantages of neither.
The third way in which files may be arranged is in some
rational order based on the relation of documents and of subjects to
each other. This type of arrangement usually involves a classifica-
tion scheme or system; this is the manner in which subject material
is usually arranged. Some classification systems are numerical;
the decimal system is perhaps the best known of the numerical
classification schemes. Some systems are alphabetical, or they may
be combinations of the two. The classification system should, how-
ever, bring together documents relating to the same matter or to the
same subject. Classifications systems, therefore, are usually used
to file so-called subject material.
The system by which subject material is arranged should be
simple, flexible, and expansible. It should also be set up in such a
way that material of the same or a related subject is brought together.
The most simple subject file system is an alphabetical arrangement
of subjects in which one folder has no direct relation to the folders
preceding or following it. For example, there may be succeeding
folders that would be labeled "Annual Reports," "Applications for
Employment," and "Automobile Maintenance and Repairs." With a
file arranged in this manner, there is also a tendency to file organi-
zationally; that is, to file by the name of the correspondent or the
office with which correspondence is exchanged. With material filed
in this manner, related subjects may be widely separated; the or-
ganizational folders may include material relating to many different
subjects; and the relationships of subjects to each other may be com-
pletely obscured. Such a system is readily expansible, because there
is no end to the number of different subjects that may be inserted
into proper alphabetical order.
The best known numerical arrangement for subject material is
the Dewey Decimal System. This system is predicated on the as-
sumption that all filed material can be organized into ten major
subjects; that each major subject can be divided into ten subdivisions;
and so on ad infinitum. Subjects, therefore, are assigned numbers,
each digit of which indicates a subject or subdivision thereof. The
most serious defect of this type of system is that it is limited to
tens that it is, in other words, not sufficiently flexible. It also has
the defect of requiring an index; virtually nothing can be retrieved
from it without first consulting an index to determine in which folder
search should begin.
There are combinations of alphabetical and numerical schemes
in such systems as an alpha-numeric file. The best known file of
this type was the Navy Filing System, in which major subjects were
assigned letter designators which generally coincided with the first
letter of the subject "A" for Administration and "S" for Supplies,
for example. The principal subdivisions were then assigned numbers
in sequence, and these subdivisions were then subdivided by numbers
in sequence. A file designation in an alpha-numeric system, then,
would appear as "A6-6," meaning, in this case "records disposition"
as an administrative technique. A system of this type also requires
an index, and its expansibility is limited by the number of letters in
the alphabet. In addition, two or more major subjects may begin with
the same letter for example, "Administration" and "Aviation" which
require adjustments in the letter designators.
Another refinement of the combined alphabetical and numerical
systems is the so-called subject-numeric system in which subject
names are used as designators and numbers are assigned to sub-
divisions. For example, a major subject would be identified as
"PERSONNEL; " the major subject then would be subdivided and the
subdivisions could then be further divided. These subdivisions are
assigned identifying numbers; "PERSONNEL 6" for example, may
mean "Employee Relations" and "PERSONNEL 6-2" may mean
"Grievances." These designators may be further refined by abbreviat-
ing the major heading to, for example, "PERS" with the complete file
designator written "PERS 6-6." A system such as the subject-
numeric system is simple, flexible, and expansible; subjects can be
added, for example, without limit. Its major drawback, however, is
the fact that numbers are associated with it and an extensive scheme
requires an index for maximum utility.
The most easily used classification system is the so-called
self indexing subject system which is similar to other classification
systems except that numbers are not used as designators. Major
subjects are established; these are then subdivided and the subdivi-
sions are further divided. The names of the subdivisions are used,
however, rather than a number. Since the number of major subjects
is usually relatively small, a file arranged according to this system
can be searched directly from the folder labels without reference to
an index first.
Whatever kind of classification system is used, the fact re-
mains that the system provides nothing more than a framework
according to which papers and documents are arranged. Whether
the system is elaborate or simple, the most important single opera-
tion in regard to filing is deciding to which subject a particular docu-
ment relates. This dec is ion -making is called classifying deciding
under what subject a document shall be placed. Various systems
have weaknesses; but the major problems with any system result
from human failure in deciding where something shall be filed. What-
ever system is used, it should be tailored to the particular needs that
it is intended to meet. An elaborate decimal system would be sense-
less in a subject file that occupies half a drawer; a simple subject
system arranged alphabetically would be useless in a file that occupies
200 file cabinets. An organizational file may be the simplest when
the relationships between subjects are not elaborate and most of the
correspondence is exchanged with a few persons or organizations.
There is no "best" system except the one that best fits a
particular situation. But this does not prevent the person who is
responsible for files from doing the things that indicate they are well
managed: drawers properly labeled; folders labeled and the folder
tabs in proper order to show the nature of the subject it holds; folders
not bulging; files broken so that only current material is in current
files; guides properly used; out cards or charge-outs properly used.
Any one of these is small; in the aggregate, however, they make the
difference between good and poor management.
Although a records management program may begin with rec-
ords disposition, it is soon found that decisions made in filing and
files maintenance have the greatest effect on the disposition of rec-
ords. Records management then progresses to the filing area, and
here it soon finds that decisions that were made when the records
were created have the greatest effect on the way that files are set up
and maintained. The number of copies of a letter, for example, and
the number of different subjects in a letter affect the way in which it
is filed; the manner in which reports are authorized, prepared, and
submitted have an impact on the files; and the way in which records
and paper work pass through an office or series of offices may deter-
mine whether the transaction is documented properly or whether it is
Records are usually created as correspondence, forms, and
reports. They are created, in other words, as communications from
one place or one person to another; as information that is organized
in a particular way or for a particular purpose; and as organized
information that is transmitted from one person or place to another.
Obviously, reports can be made as letters in a narrative style or as
organized data on a form. Since most of the money spent on records
is spent in creating them, the need for work in the records creation
area of records management is obvious.
Letters, generally, may be hard to read and to understand be-
cause they are too long. The savings that result from shortening a
single letter by one -quarter would be minimal; but on as few as 100
letters a year they would be substantial. When a letter is shortened,
there should be no reduction in the thought content; rather the excess
and unneeded words should be cut out. Letters are costly, also, be-
cause many people who write letters find them hard to write. And
many of the people who find it a chore to write a letter feel that the
two or three letters they produce each day should each be a master-
piece of erudition. Letters should be simple they are usually written
to answer a question or to ask or tell a person something. They
should be written in words that people understand in picture words
rather than abstractions.
Many repetitive letters can be printed and used as form letters.
To be effective, a form letter should have a minimum of fill-ins and
the fill-ins should be located so that they can be completed without
difficulty. Form letters should be used if they deal with routine
business or informational matters; they should not be used for
personal letters and for letters that contain a message that brings
grief or disappointment to the reader. A form letter with ten lines
is economical if it is used at least twenty times a month; fifteen lines
fifteen times a month; twenty or more lines ten times a month. The
economy of a form letter, then, is measured in terms of the number
of lines and the number of times used per month.
If a letter is not used enough times for it to be economical to
be printed, it may be possible to use a pre-written pattern or guide
letter. A letter of this type is written in advance of use, fits a
particular situation, and may be prepared by a typist who has been
instructed to write a particular letter. The principal advantages of
form and pattern letters is that they are well written, they contain
only necessary information and avoid excess verbiage, and they can
be written and mailed promptly.
Just as it is possible to manage correspondence, so is it pos-
sible to manage forms. The goal of forms management, however, is
somewhat different; its aim is to eliminate unnecessary forms,
combine forms that are similar, and to simplify necessary forms so
that they can be filled out more easily. In order to have a forms
control program, particularly if the number of forms is not large, it
is not necessary to assemble samples of all forms and then to classify
them into functions. With a large number of forms, a functional file
will certainly bring together forms that perform a like or common
function. The most effective way to control forms, however, is to
review them in the context of the procedural operation that uses them.
Too frequently, a procedure is designed to fit forms that are already
in use; actually, the forms should fit the procedure.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the proper design of
forms, and this should be considered as a part of the effective
management of forms. C. Northcote Parkinson in his scholarly dis-
cussion of Parkinson's Law describes forms design in these words:
"The art of devising forms to be filled in depends on three elements:
obscurity, lack of space, and the heaviest penalties for failure. In a
form-compiling department, obscurity is ensured by various branches
dealing respectively with ambiguity, irrelevance, and jargon."! Many
forms seem to meet these standards, but they need not. Most forms
are now filled in by typewriter and the form should be designed so
that the lines conform to machine spacing and the entries should be
lined up so that they can be made with a minimum number of tab
stops. Design standards may be simple, and a properly designed
form can be filled in in a fraction of the time required to fill in a
poorly designed form and clerical time costs money.
Reports are a paper work burden. The reporting pattern re-
sembles an inverted pyramid: at the top are many separate offices
each requiring only one or two relatively simple reports; and all of
these zero in on a single office at the bottom of the heap which is
faced with the gigantic task of preparing dozens of reports. Reports
duplicate each other the same or substantially the same information
is reported to more than one place; they are made too frequently
often at a frequency which has no relation to the reported data; they
cost too much if a report costs several thousand dollars to prepare
it may not be worth the cost of preparing it.
There are many different techniques by which the creation of
records can be managed or controlled. There are formal, conven-
tional control programs. Records can also be managed through what
has been called a systems approach that is, a review of procedures
which will automatically result in review of the paper work that
accompanies them. Streamlining of the procedure will automatically
streamline the accompanying paper work. But whatever management
technique is used, the fact remains that the creation of records must
be managed or paper work will completely overwhelm the operations
it is supposed to assist.
Why should an archivist be concerned with the management of
current records ? Why should the custodian of historical documents
be concerned about techniques for controlling the creation of records ?
The archivist is concerned with permanently valuable records not
only of the past but of the present. The archives of the future are
being created and filed right now; if the archivist does not protect
his interests in the permanently valuable material during its creation,
maintenance, and eventual disposition, he must be satisfied with what-
ever manages to survive. If he participates actively in the creation,
maintenance, and disposition of all records, he will protect his
interest in the relatively small percentage that comprises permanent
Too frequently, the archivist has been pushed aside while the
records manager practices his trade upon the records with which the
archivist will eventually be concerned. Then, when all decisions have
been made and the records have been created, filed, and finally dis-
posed of, the remnanent passes to the archivist.
The archivist, then, has a dual responsibility. First, he must
preserve the historical heritage of the institution which he serves;
second, he must insure that the documentation of that heritage is of
the highest possible quality. The latter is possible only through the
proper management of records and paper work. Many an archivist
may feel that he is above the mundane problems of administration
and management which appear to be the special province of records
management. Unless he injects himself into these areas, however,
the archivist will find that he has less and less influence over the
activities with which he is specially concerned. Today the archivist
can no longer function in his ivory tower; to be effective, he has no
alternative but to participate actively and aggressively in the manage-
ment of the material from which the items comprising his "archives"
1. Parkinson, C. Northcote. Parkinson's Law. Cambridge,
The Riverside Press, 1957, p. 109.
RECORDS MANAGEMENT BIBLIOGRAPHY*
Records Management General
Commission on Organization of Executive Branch of the Government.
Task Force Report on Paperwork Management: Part I In the
United States Government. Washington, D. C., Government
Printing Office, 1955.
DePaul University. Memorandum to the Records Management Act.
Washington, D. C., Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization,
Griffin, Mary Claire. Records Management: A Modern Tool for
Business. Boston, Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1964.
Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. Records Management and
Preservation. Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office,
Ross, H. John. Paperwork Management: A Manual of Workload
Reduction Techniques. South Miami, Florida, Office Research
Institute, c. 1961.
*This bibliography makes no claim to being definitive or complete.
It indicates to the novice some of the sources of additional informa-
tion on various phases of records management.
Schellenberg, T. R. Modern Archives: Principles and Techniques.
Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1956.
Bureau of the Budget. Simplifying Procedures through Forms Con-
trol. Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office, 1948.
Butterfield, William H. Common Sense in Letter Writing. Englewood
Cliffs, N. C., Prentice-Hall, Inc., c. 1963.
General Services Administration. Form Letters [Records Manage-
ment Handbook: Managing Correspondence] . Washington, B.C.,
Government Printing Office, 1954.
General Services Administration. Forms Analysis [ Records Manage-
ment Handbook: Managing Forms] . Washington, D. C., Govern-
ment Printing Office, rev. 1960.
General Services Administration. Forms Design [Records Manage-
ment Handbook: Managing Forms] . Washington, D. C.,
Government Printing Office, rev. 1960.
General Services Administration. Guide Letters [ Records Manage-
ment Handbook: Managing Correspondence] . Washington, D. C.,
Government Printing Office, 1955.
General Services Administration. Plain Letters [ Records Manage-
ment Handbook: Managing Correspondence] . Washington, D. C.,
Government Printing Office, 1955.
Knox, Frank M. Design and Control of Business Forms. New York,
McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1952.
Department of the Navy. Forms Management (NMO Inst 5213.5) .
Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office, 1958.
Sheppard, Mona. Plain Letters: The Secret of Successful Business
Writing. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1960.
American Records Management Association. Rules for Alphabetical
Filing. Los Angeles, American Records Management Associa-
Department of the Army. Installing and Using the Army Functional
Files System (Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 345-1) .
Washington, D. C., Department of the Army, 1958.
Department of the Navy. Guide to Better File Operations ( NMO Inst
5211.6) . Washington, D. C., Navy Management Office, 1957.
General Services Administration. Files Operations [ Records
Management Handbook: Managing Current Files] . Washington,
D. C., Government Printing Office, 1964.
North Carolina Department of Archives and History. Files and Filing
[ Records Management Handbook] . Raleigh, 1963.
Odell, Margaret K., and Strong, Earl P. Records Management and
Filing Operations. New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1947.
California Department of Finance. Records Disposition [ Paperwork
Management Handbook] . Sacramento, 1961.
General Services Administration. Applying Records Schedules [ Rec-
ords Management Handbook: Managing Noncurrent Files] .
Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office, rev. 1961.
Mitchell, William E. Records Retention. Evansville, Ind., Ellsworth
Publishing Co., rev. 1963.
North Carolina Department of Archives and History. Records Dis-
position [ Records Management Handbook] . Raleigh, rev. 1964.
North Carolina Department of Archives and History. State Records
Center [ Records Management Handbook] . Raleigh, 1963.
Department of the Army. Microfilming of Records ( Technical
Manual TM 12-257) . Department of the Army, 1955.
Bureau of the Budget. Process Charting: Its Use in Procedural
Analysis. Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office, 1945.
General Services Administration. Agency Mail Operations [ Records
Management Handbook: Managing Mail] . Washington, D. C.,
Government Printing Office, 1957.
General Services Administration. Protecting Vital Operating Records
[ Records Management Handbook: Managing Current Files]"!
Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office, 1958.
The George Washington University. Records Essential for Identifica-
tion of Persons: An Inventory and Evaluation of Public Records
Relating to Identification of Individuals during Emergency and
Post-Emergency Periods. Washington, D. C., 1961.
North Carolina Department of Archives and History. College and
University Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. Raleigh,
Woman's College of the University of North Carolina [University of
North Carolina at Greensboro] . Archives: Records Schedule.
THE COLLECTING OF ARCHIVAL MATERIALS AT
Edith M. Fox
Cornell University was among the pioneers in the development
of a university archives and a regional history collection. The
physical results of that endeavor are at times so annoyingly apparent
in expanding stacks and worrisome storage places as to obscure the
research values of the bulky records that cause the trouble. In con-
trast, the books and articles which have been wholly or partially
based on these materials take little room, although a surprisingly
large number of them are scattered through any major library.
The pioneering days have ended. During the past decade, a fair
number of universities have established archives, and, occasionally,
related manuscript divisions. National, state, and city agencies,
universities, historical societies, and other institutions have issued
guides to their holdings. The Library of Congress maintains a union
list of manuscripts. Despite the pains of growth and their attendant
problems, these agencies and institutions are cooperating with en-
thusiasm to make primary sources better and more widely available
to serious researchers. Never have scholars had such a wealth of
resources within their easy reach.
At a university like Cornell, where the archival and regional
history department is within the library system and housed in a great
research library, the scholar oriented to the primary source has the
additional good fortune of having the published primary and secondary
sources at hand. Such a situation can be ideal, particularly if the
primary source is not sacrificed in the interests of the secondary
It is impossible to consider the collecting of archival materials
at Cornell as a distinct and separate activity. Regional History and
the University Archives are two co-equal units constituting one de-
partment. At the present time, they are so closely knit that a divorce
might prove disastrous for both, as well as for the cause of research.
That the University Archives had, in a way, its beginnings in Regional
History and that the single purpose of collecting became a dual pur-
pose have deeply influenced the character of each.
The Collection of Regional History was established in October
of 1942 with the aid of a Rockefeller Foundation grant. It was thought
Mrs. Fox is Curator of Regional History and University Archivist,
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
that grass-roots collecting of manuscripts and ephemera relating to
the common man of the region might reveal through research certain
regional differences and a pattern. But the fragmentary evidence
collected showed no particular pattern and few correlations. The
many account books then garnered may never be of much use except
as objects of curiosity a thousand years hence. Sets of family papers,
small or large, remain undisturbed in the stacks, waiting for the
touch of research to realize their potential value.
Despite the talk in those early days about the historical value
of the regional sources, no scholar took so much as a nibble at them.
Whitney Cross, a former Cornell curator, satisfied some of his
frustrations of being a collector without a researching clientele by
acquiring the papers of Edward Eggleston which had attached to them
the biographer who continued to use them. The Hoosier Schoolmaster
certainly represented the common man if not the region. 1
Three years later, in 1945, when I became head of the makeshift
cubbyhole quarters with a door to which there were 240 keys on the
lower campus, I was still a graduate student, with Professor Paul W.
Gates as my chairman. The most active individual behind the crea-
tion of almost any American manuscript division in a university is
an historian in search of primary sources for himself and/or his
graduate students. Professor Gates had played that role in the crea-
tion of Regional History. After 1945, and for some years, the empha-
sis in collecting was on records generally originating in the region
and relating to agriculture, land policies, railroads, the lumber
industry, and similar topics. A number of Professor Gates' students
used some of these papers for theses, a goodly share of which were
A pioneering spirit held the professor, the students, and the
curator in an enthusiastic, highly advantageous association. One
result was that the curator came to identify collecting aims so closely
with real or potential research needs that one could not be thought of
without the other. This identification helped to make for a definition
of a university archives which is broader and richer for the research
content than is generally accepted in the archival world.
The definition of the university archives as a depository not
only for the historical documents and official records of the institu-
tion but also for the private papers of those who created the docu-
ments and records was inherent in the founding and continuing
existence of Cornell University. The founding was an intimate
personal experience for two very different men. Some months before
opening day, President Andrew D. White wrote, "Night & day I have
worked for this University I am willing to give my life & all I have
for it." 2 A few months after that bright October day, Ezra Cornell
wrote to his wife that the establishment of Cornell University was the
culmination of all his successes, which were reached through
grievous toil and suffering. 3 The backgrounds, experiences, and
philosophies of these two men formed the mold in which the plan of
the university was cast. Both men knew this.
Cornell and White were more than founders who established a
university similar more or less to other institutions of higher learn-
ing. They created a new university which Allan Nevins designated as
*. . . the most remarkable phenomenon in higher education during the
postwar decade. "^
The nature of that phenomenon is concisely and best described
in The History of Cornell by Morris Bishop:
The Cornell Idea was a compound of two ideas: the Ezra
Cornell Idea and the Andrew D. White Idea. The Ezra Cornell
Idea was expressed in his famous motto. It was an appeal for
education to meet recognized needs and lacks in American life.
It insisted on the test by utility, on the practical applications of
studies. The Andrew D. White Idea was the motivation by the
desire to learn, in place of disciplinary education. It transferred
the power of choice from the teacher to the student. It insisted
on the individual's rights in full confidence that the free indi-
vidual, with kindly guidance, will find his way to wisdom and
Neither Cornell, nor White, nor their contemporaries explained
or defined the Cornell Idea although everybody talked about it.
Professor Bishop wrote that he had difficulty in defining it. No great
light is shed on the problem by the official records: the Charter,
REGISTER, the various announcements, the letters by Cornell, White,
and others which were kept as exhibits or official letters in the
Trustees' Minutes, the lecture notes, the outlines of courses, and
the other documents and records.
There are, of course, choice bits about early activities tucked
away in the official records. One daybook, kept by the business
manager, gives a running account for the first year in Cascadilla
Hall, a former water-cure sanatorium, a barracks of a place which
had class rooms and laboratories, and housed the faculty and their
families as well as the students. Professors demanded new equip-
ment and scolded about students throwing slops from the upper
windows. A great hubbub over coal ended in coal tickets for all. A
student from Harvard, refusing to eat with the hoi polloi, had his
meals in his room. The laboratory of Professor Burt G. Wilder, the
first anatomist, stank so terribly that everyone felt ill. Ezra Cornell
sent the night soil from the privies to fertilize the university vegetable
gardens. Founder's Day, Ezra Cornell's birthday, was celebrated with
dancing, a sinful pleasure in the eyes of Ithacans. President White
turned the place upside down in preparation for the eminent Goldwin
Smith, the British political economist. He even installed a bell so
Smith would not have to yell for service. But with all this, and
White's plans for the faculty, Cornell's reports on construction, the
trustees' deliberations, and the constant display of pioneering en-
thusiasm and discomfort, there is nothing which defines the great
innovation of the Cornell Idea.
Professor Bishop produced his definition after many hours
spent in reading the private papers of Cornell and White. In terms of
his own perspective and knowledge, he recreated their backgrounds
and experiences, understood their philosophies, and gave meaning to
the aims which were so concrete in practice, yet so nebulously ex-
pressed in theory. And given the warm human nature of his sources,
he was able to produce a warm human book, the most delightful, well-
written, and scholarly university history yet published.
Just as the combination of the private Cornell and White papers
with the official records of the day are needed to understand the new
university, so are needed the same combination of private and official
records for any study of later developments at Cornell, be it a col-
lege, a department, or even a position. Each development is deep-
rooted in the private interests and personalities of one or more
individuals. And this is as true of Regional History and the Univer-
sity Archives as of any other department.
What happened to the official records and the private papers
down through the years at Cornell is more or less typical of what
happened elsewhere. Official records of the university were saved,
sometimes less carefully than they should have been, but on the
whole very well indeed, and not necessarily for business or legal
The University Library held a few private papers but had no
interest in them. There was no demand for them. Only the papers
of great men were saved by institutions. The private papers of more
ordinary men were saved in the attics of the big houses of the day.
But the Library carefully saved its official papers, and the Cornell
University Archives has a beautiful set of them. On the other hand,
the private papers of Daniel Willard Fiske, the first librarian, papers
Professor Bishop found most useful, were thrown in the library tower
and allowed to dry rot and almost disintegrate.
Andrew D. White considered his papers important, partly be-
cause of the letters famous men had written to him. His literary
executor kept the files intact in the library. Like his cofounder,
Ezra Cornell wanted his papers saved for posterity. Information
expressed in them about the development of the telegraph, as well as
about the founding of the University warranted preservation. But his
papers became divided among members of the family. Many of them
are scattered about the country.
The Library may have ignored, even mistreated, the con-
temporary private papers for whose care it was neither trained,
equipped, nor supported, and for which the demand was infinitesimal,
but it did very well by Cornelliana the pamphlets, stunt books, scrap
books, and other ephemera, and the official and unofficial publications,
all of which are vital as supplements to manuscripts, and in them-
selves. In fact, the numerous items are so well cataloged and shelved
that the process of getting them into the Archives where they belong
is taking forever.
An acceleration of developments, changes, and events during
the 1940's precipitated the establishment of the official archives in
1951 and determined its nature and position. Of course, the tre-
mendous increase of scholarly research in primary sources was and
is the growing and powerful force for preservation. Otherwise, the
great paper war would be quickly solved by total destruction, except
for a few choice captives.
We have already seen how the emphasis at Cornell on regional
history made for a broad definition of a university archives. The
very aims of regional history demanded the establishment of an ar-
chives. A curator could not collect the records of small educational
institutions on the basis of their values for research without coming
to have strong feelings about the records of one of the great univer-
sities of the country.
The research interest of a number of historians suddenly turned
toward Cornell as a subject for investigation with the use of archival
records presupposed. Walter P. Rogers analyzed Andrew D. White's
influence on the development of the modern university in terms of
what he found in the private papers. ^ And Paul W. Gates focused
attention on the potential research values of Cornell's business
records through his extensive use of the Western Lands papers for
his study of Cornell's Wisconsin pine lands, a study important for
Wisconsin history as well as Cornell's history as a land grant
college. 7 A nostalgic appreciation for the university's beginnings
was subtly engendered by Carl Becker in his preliminary lectures
and his published Cornell University: Founders and Founding. 8 This
appreciation was not dissipated but strengthened by the death of that
illustrious historian in 1945, two years after the publication of his
book. The research interest of these three historians had made use
of the non- cur rent official records as well as the private papers.
Whitney R. Cross, having his hands full in organizing and build-
ing a new collection and also thinking that regional and Cornell
archival materials were not compatible in a regional collection, re-
fused to round up usable archival sources on campus, and accepted
those sources only when necessary. But this speaker could not
resist gathering university records and papers which might be of
quick interest to scholars. The papers of Ezra Cornell and Andrew
D. White were begged from the Library and along with other sources
from the campus, most of them private papers, were brought to the
archives. After the publication of The Second Report of the Curator,
1945-1946, CORNELL UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES was never again used
as one of the entries in the report of Regional History. It had become
clear that there would have to be a separation between records of the
region and those of the university, if Cornell were ever to have an
archives of its recorded history.
There was the nagging worry about records and papers dis-
appearing. It was Professor George Healey, now Curator as well of
Rare Books and Manuscripts, who asked one day, "And what ever
happened to the Charles Kendall Adams' papers?" The question was
tossed back and forth and all around the campus until it was dis-
covered that the papers of Cornell's second president had been
sacrificed to a scrap paper drive during the war. However, Professor
Healey's question continues to be echoed in the hope that someone
salvaged them, and that they will be returned to Cornell.
And then there happened a threat to Cornell's non-current
records which could have been a catastrophe. One June evening, a
flash flood and a broken storm sewer poured water into a vault lo-
cated in the sub-basement of a girls' dormitory, the vault used by the
Treasurer's Office and various administrative officers to store a
large quantity of non-current records. Most of these records, except
for an excess of vouchers, were worth permanent preservation.
From time to time, administrative officers, who were most
cooperative, had allowed the removal of sets of records to be added
to Regional History's holdings. Although the quarters given over to
Regional History were far from ideal, they were certainly an im-
provement on the sub-basement. But the records still in this vault
were now faced with destruction.
The flood water rose to a height of two feet and remained
there until discovered. In a sense, the event was not without an
advantage. During the rest of the week, the endless ironing of legal
documents and the twenty-four hour-a-day drying by hot air of the
other records demonstrated in a way words could not that the sub-
basement of a girls' dormitory was no proper place for Cornell's
In the meantime, Regional History had become an administrative
unit of the University Library, the Rockefeller grant having ended.
This change determined the organizational place the Archives would
have. Stephen A. McCarthy, recently appointed Director of the
Library, was well disposed toward university archives. His taste
leaned toward the preservation of the private papers of Cornell's
notables, a taste he shared with a number of faculty members. Even
the patron historian of Regional History, despite his wide experience
with state and national archives, despite his scholarly grubbing among
non-current records in campus catchalls, distrusted any proposal
which would allow a retirement of records program to threaten the
collecting of historical sources. In any case, if he wanted to research
in Cornell's old business records, which no one else cared to do at
that time, he had only to ask the Treasurer's Office for a key.
Cornell's centennial was then a few short years away, and
there was concern among those who had a deep affection for the past
about having sources available for the historian to use once he was
appointed. Not much connection was seen between the papers to be
brought together and Regional History, the campus center for col-
lecting contemporary sources. An affiliation was regularly dis-
couraged by the sight of the curator always returning to campus with
a truckload of soot-covered records and dumping them in the middle
of a respectable Cornell University building.
It was disturbing to realize that the choicest private papers
were to be brought together and designated the University Archives.
It appeared wrong to have the University Archives include only the
non-current official record and the historical document, although that
is the acceptable form in archival circles. Too many institutions
had the most precious private papers in the Library, and, ingloriously
off to one side, the official files and records in a Records Center. In
the gap between them there fell to destruction all the sources judged
without value in a perspectiveless present. It appeared that the role
of the historian was being confused with that of the archivist, his loyal
servant. The ghosts of the grand old historians of the past century
who gathered their own sources were walking on our campus.
After some reflection along these lines, I suggested to
McCarthy that I try writing a proposal for a proper University Ar-
chives. He thought it a good idea. Eventually, after considerable
thought and work, I gave the results to him. The Library Board
recommended the establishment to the Faculty, which approved and
in turn made a recommendation to the Trustees that the University
Archives be established under the jurisdiction of the University
Library and that the development and management of the University
Archives be made the responsibility of the University Archivist under
the delegated authority from the Director of the Library. The Uni-
versity Archives was to be one of two co-equal units in the same
quarters under a Curator of Regional History and University Archivist.
There was also to be an Advisory Council. An orderly retirement
program for the entire University was to be established.
The Trustees began their resolution with a statement that a
University Archives be established to insure the preservation of the
significant records of the University and their organization for use in
historical studies and research. The significant records were (1)
non-current records of permanent value, and (2) records relating to
the history of the University and to the persons connected with it.
The records could be manuscript, printed, photographic, or of other
Within a short time after the establishment of the University
Archives, non-current records began to be retired from the New
York State College of Agriculture, the most significant for us at that
time being the files of former deans, and records relating to exten-
sion work. These records showed Cornell's role as an integral part
of rural New York. There were many and marked correlations be-
tween these records and those in Regional History relating to the
farmer, cooperatives, farm organizations, and other agricultural
manifestations in this region.
The relationship between Regional History and the University
Archives began to change rapidly. The change was inherent in the
appointment of the Curator as the Curator and University Archivist.
The University Archives is now the dominant partner in the "two
coequal units" relationship, except in the field of political papers.
With few exceptions, the collecting for Regional History is now within
Cornell's sphere of interest as it is represented by holdings in the
Archives. The results are excellent for the research interest in and
of a few colleges, notably the New York State College of Agriculture.
The research interests, real or potential, of other colleges, depart-
ments, and offices have been neglected only in the sense that the
University Archivist has had the entire burden of retiring and col-
lecting records in addition to many administrative and professional
duties and has generally answered the strongest demands first.
Agriculture, engineering, and architecture illustrate the dif-
ferent levels of strength in primary sources that are encountered.
Agriculture is an example of a subject area having rich resources.
Its records and papers constitute more than a quarter of the bulk of
the department's entire holdings, the giant share being in Archives.
Both administrators and faculty members of The New York State
College of Agriculture have been and are most cooperative in retiring
or giving their non-current records and private papers and those of
their predecessors to the Archives. Research interest in these
holdings is broad and varied and comes from the campus and beyond
campus. This interest was largely responsible for the creation of
Regional History. Scholarly use has been stimulated by grants and
aids, one of which recently supported an Oral History Project which
in its turn produced more records.
On the other hand, engineering is slightly represented. Regional
History early acquired a few sets of choice professional papers.
There are scattered records and papers relating to the development
and administration of the various engineering colleges. The Cornell
Society of Engineers is retiring its records to the Archives. There
are three reasons for the paucity of records. A former dean has
been using records to write a history. There has been no demand for
research material in this area to stimulate collecting. The University
Archivist has not exerted enough pressure for a retirement program.
In contrast, the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory at Buffalo has co-
operated in working out a retirement program.
Regional collecting on a small scale and the retirement of
archival records in the field of architecture supported a research
project of great cultural value. The primary sources had been used
to some extent but not extensively by students and others before
Professor Kermit C. Parsons began work on an architectural history
of Cornell. He had the aid of a graduate student in history who
combed through archival and regional records looking for letters,
drawings, photographs, and other sources for over two years.
The faculty of the College of Architecture is highly cooperative
in the retirement of its records and the giving of private papers. At
present, a plan is being worked out for collecting regional records
within Cornell's sphere of interest in answer to the need of research
materials for a project in city planning and urban renewal.
The same statement can be made about other fields of interest
as represented by colleges, departments, and offices on campus.
Certainly, the disciplines at Cornell and the ever -increasing empha-
sis on original research indicate a strong future in well-rounded
collections of manuscript and other primary sources in many fields.
The acquisition of primary sources through retirement or
collecting of records more often than not begins with prolonged
menial labor. It has none of the dignity of purchase from a dealer.
The sight of the collector struggling in storerooms on campus or
elsewhere with dusty and sometimes mice-ridden files and always
maintaining that special high level of enthusiasm may earn the epithet
"junk-collector" and the job -description "All that is needed is an
open hand." But it is this acquisition which brings pleasure to the
archivist and creates a truly useful archives.
1. Eggleston, Edward. The Hoosier Schoolmaster; A Novel.
New York, O. Judd and Company, 1871.
2. Andrew W. White to Joseph Harris, Feb. 24, 1868. In
"Trustees' Minutes, Cornell University."
3. Cornell to Mary Ann, Jan. 17, 1869. In "Ezra Cornell
Papers." At Cornell University Archives.
4. Nevins, Allan. The Emergence of Modern America, 1865-
1878. New York, The Macmillan Company, 1927, p. 272.
5. Bishop, Morris. The History of Cornell. Ithaca, N. Y.,
Cornell University Press, 1962, p. 177.
6. Rogers, Walter P. Andrew D. White and the Modern Uni-
versity. Ithaca, N. Y., Cornell University Press, 1942.
7. Gates, Paul W. The Wisconsin Pine Lands of Cornell
University; A Study in Land Policy and Absentee Ownership. Ithaca,
N. Y., Cornell University Press, 1943.
8. Becker, Carl. Cornell University: Founders and the
Founding. Ithaca, N. Y., Cornell University Press, 1943.
APPRAISAL AND PROCESSING
How records are appraised and processed in the University
Archives at Illinois will be the subject of this discussion. At the
University of Illinois, the University Archives is located in the Li-
brary. Wherever the archivist may be located organizationally, he
should be out of his office two-thirds of the time. While processing
must be done in the Archives, the archivist should define and
standardize processing procedures so that he may spend his time in
locating the historical documentation relating to the activities of the
university's staff and students. Effective appraisal must be done in
offices, storerooms, stockrooms, and basements. Every time rec-
ords are moved the chances of disarrangement and loss increase.
I have never seen a position description describing the duties
of a university archivist. Such a description should cover these
points. The archivist must have freedom to contact sources of
archival material, to act quickly on his own responsibility, to
appraise the research or historical value of material, to classify
according to an archival system, and to destroy material lacking
sufficient evidential or informational value to warrant its continued
retention. An archivist should have three lives: as a researcher,
a records manager, and an administrator. As a researcher, he
would learn the researcher's requirements for primary source
material. As a records manager, he would learn the importance of
quality records and how to select those records most worthy of
preservation. As an administrator, he would gain an appreciation of
the administrator's view of archives and the techniques involved in
the creation of records.
Records Appraisal Standards
The most important part of the archivist's work and the least
evident to the outsider is the appraisal of records for their archival
value. In systems analysis I found it most valuable to remember
Maynard Brichford is University Archivist, University of Illinois,
Rudyard Kipling's line from "The Elephant's Child," "I keep six
honest serving-men. They taught me all I knew. Their names are
What and Why and When, and How and Where and Who." For archival
work, four of these serving men suffice. We need to know what to
keep and why. We need to know who will use it and how.
Before proceeding with appraisal techniques, I shall list the
most common types of records that may be housed in a University
Archives. Most archives will include official records from campus
offices. We define them as all records, documents, correspondence,
accounts, files, manuscripts, publications, photographs, tapes,
drawings, or other material bearing upon the activities and functions
of the university or its officers and employees, academic and non-
academic. Records produced or received by the university in the
transaction of its business become university property. Subject
files, correspondence, personnel records, academic records, and
business records accumulate rapidly and will likely be the archivist's
first concern. These files constitute the framework of the institu-
A second type of records are the private personal papers of
faculty and administrative staff. These should also be the definite
responsibility of the archivist. It is not necessary to draw fine lines
of distinction between university property and personal property. If
they are valuable, take them as university records by records dis-
posal procedures, or take them as private papers by agreement with
the donor. Private papers are more difficult to acquire than office
files and frequently are more valuable to the researcher. Letters,
journals, notebooks, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, and manu-
scripts reveal professional interests and opinions which enable the
researcher to relate a man's academic career to his total interests.
A professor will write to an absent colleague in language that he
would never put in a report to the President or Dean. The full story
of the academic community is best represented in documentation
accumulated by outstanding faculty members.
Records of student and faculty organizations are valuable. At
Wisconsin and Illinois we have found literally hundreds of student
organizations representing the academic, social, professional, politi-
cal, and religious interests of the student body. Many of these
organizations will leave few records beyond the annual photograph
in the yearbooks, but all should be surveyed for possible material of
research value; such as Phi Beta Kappa addresses and the minutes of
the University Club.
University publications should be integrated into the Archives
and filed as series in the appropriate sub-group with official records
and faculty papers. Carefully collected and evaluated, publications
may permit the destruction of many cubic feet of supporting work
papers. This is especially true in the area of business records and
automated academic records keeping systems, where the informa-
tional content is most important. When fiscal and procedural audits
permit the destruction of such records, the researcher generally
retains an interest in only the summaries and published reports.
The acquisition of publications may pose problems. Your
library has probably collected college or university publications
since the institution was organized. With the development of the
mimeograph machine and the offset press, the publishing functions
have become so decentralized and have grown so rapidly that both
administrators and librarians have been buried beneath a flood of
serials, studies, reports, catalogs, circulars, bulletins, pamphlets,
announcements, and other published issuances. The archivist can
make a real contribution by using his classification system and
control techniques to bring order to this chaotic situation. Thus far,
we have taken the following steps at Illinois:
1. The "Illinois Collection" of University publications is being
disbanded. One copy of all items will be placed in the Ar-
chives. If necessary, extra copies will be placed in the
general stacks under a subject matter classification or a
University classification. These copies circulate, while
Archives copies do not. Other duplicate copies will be
2. One copy of all University Press and Printing Division
publications is sent directly to the Archives.
3. If any doubt exists about our holding a publication, we re-
quest that the office or faculty member send it to the Ar-
chives so we may check it against our holdings. We also
receive university publications sent to the Library.
Many Archives include theses, papers, and dissertations. They
form a valuable adjunct to the university publications and departmental
academic records. At Illinois, these items are retained by the general
Other archives, and I am sure that many of you are or will be
in this group, have collections of regional history manuscripts or
literary manuscripts. These valuable resources for scholarship may
be boxed and processed like archival material, but they are not ar-
chives and should not be intermingled in catalogs or storage areas
with the university or college archives.
What aspects of recorded human experience shall be preserved?
An archivist cannot rely upon principles, laws, and schedules to
determine what shall be kept. It is most important that he read
widely and well and interview. He should keep reference statistics
on users, purposes, and series used. The first and most important
aspect of records appraisal is preparation by securing a thorough
knowledge of the functions of the office that created, filed, or pub-
lished the records. For official records, the archivist should consult
the college or university catalog; the administrative history in his
classification guide; any histories of the college, department, or
office and field notes or memoranda covering previous correspond-
ence, contacts, and visits. These sources should orient the archivist
to the organizational development, functions, policies, and procedures
of the creating office. Sometimes a working knowledge of your insti-
tution may require personal interviews with faculty and administrative
staff. Such interviews contribute to an intelligent collection policy
and effective assistance to researchers as well as to the archivist's
ability to evaluate his material.
For faculty papers, the archivist should read and outline a
biographical sketch in Who Was Who in America, Who's Who in
America, American Men of Science, National Academy of Sciences'
Biographical Memoirs, Directory of American Scholars, or another
suitable biographical record. He should then check his records for a
vita and a list of the subject's publications. At this point, it might be
necessary to spend an hour with an encyclopedia or some textbooks to
acquaint oneself with the academic field and the major lines of
development and research interest. Published institutional histories
may provide additional perspective. This takes time and talent, but
both can be secured if you want a functioning university archives. If
you find the transition from historian to physicist to agronomist to
architect difficult, you should not be a university archivist.
For publications, preparation is largely a matter of identifying
their source and purpose. The problems of personal negotiations are
usually eliminated by a procedural requirement that a copy of all
publications be sent to the Archives. Appraisal is further simplified
by a policy decision on what types of published material will not be
retained. In this category, we usually include blank forms, letter-
heads, envelopes, routine form letters and office announcements,
announcements of events which are listed on the University Calendar,
announcement posters, and transmittal sheets.
Archival material is retained for its evidential or informational
value. Archives are records of who did what and why. To obtain the
most significant records we need criteria for determining the value
or quality of the various records series. In general, we should select
records with the greatest potential value to researchers, covering
the broadest range of the university's activities for the longest time
with the smallest volume of the most easily understandable records.
The first of two standard approaches is a horizontal selection
of the top level records. Valuable policy documentation is usually
quite understandable and takes the shape of minutes, correspondence,
reports, and subject files. It is seldom on punched cards or magnetic
tape. Care should be taken to avoid duplication of official records
at the president's office, dean's office, and departmental levels, or
between the business office and line offices. Avoidable duplication
usually exists in directives, reports, and files which contain a com-
mon form. Subject and correspondence files will contain a large
proportion of unavoidable duplication. It is unavoidable because the
cost of weeding exceeds the cost of processing and storing the extra
A second technique is the vertical selection of a segment of an
organization's records which documents systems and procedures.
This may require a sampling of various records from routine work
papers and memoranda through data processing records to a final
The modern university is engaged in teaching, research, and
service. The archivist should select records containing adequate
documentation of these three basic functions. We can agree that the
summary academic transcript for each student, final reports of re-
search activity, and periodic reports of service offices should be
retained in the Archives. While these synoptic records do not present
appraisal problems, the archivist must make daily decisions on other
records which will determine our knowledge of the past. In all areas,
he should be sensitive to the quality of the records. While recogniz-
ing that all records have some archival value, he will shortly realize
that only from three to ten per cent can be preserved. In a recent
review of inventory work sheets for records at the University of
Illinois Chicago Undergraduate Division, we found approximately 6
per cent had sufficient archival value to warrant transfer to the
Indifference to modern procedures for the creation and main-
tenance of records produces archival material of poorer quality and
greater quantity. Gradually, universities will follow the federal
government, state governments, and industry in becoming concerned
about the cost of records making and records keeping. Until then, the
university archivist will have difficulties in arousing interest in the
efficient handling of paper work. Most university offices are char-
acterized by peaks of activity and lulls. Data processing, pre-
registration, and the 12-month school year relieve but do not eliminate
these cycles. Factors like the 25 per cent annual turnover in the
academic community also distinguish us from other major producers
of archival material. Despite these important differences, we can
profit from the archival literature produced by government agencies.
Official records should be obtained under a routine, orderly
process of transfer from active office files or inactive storage areas
to the university archives. This may be done by records disposal
schedules or by informal agreement between the archivist and the
custodian of the records. The archivist's goal should be a records
disposal schedule for each university office. Practical limitations on
his time, the degree of compliance and standardization that the ad-
ministration will insist upon and the repetitive nature of scheduling
offices may force him to identify files having archival value and
allow the Business Office general schedule and the office adminis-
trators to decide retention periods for other record series. The one
man archives may need an alternative to scheduling and the time-
consuming inventory leg work of records analysts or self-inventories.
In visiting an office, I contact the secretary or department head, make
a quick inventory, indicate which types of records probably have
archival value, which types may be destroyed when legal and financial
retention requirements are met and leave a letter from the President's
Office outlining a transfer procedure. If possible, the procedure
should involve clean chronological file breaks. The archivist should
avoid the "dribble system" where custodians of important files send
a folder to the Archives whenever they decide it is more "historical"
than "administrative." He should also avoid the system reported by
a department head in 1924, "Unfortunately when closet room gives out,
some unerudite and dirty-handed person will have to consign to the
flames all but the worthwhile and his judgment may not be good."
Another peril is the official historian who regards his appointment as
a letter of marque to raid the office files for items of historical
Among the largest producers of paper work in a university are
the administrative and business offices. Their records are most
suitable for scheduling. They pose a problem for the archivist in that
the processor needs skills in bookkeeping and filing systems to under-
stand why and how these records were created. Many manuscript
and archival collections remain unprocessed for the lack of such
skills. Another area which produces many records in the modern
university is the area of science and technology. Although the
archivist may be better prepared to handle records produced by the
social sciences and humanities, he should develop procedures and
criteria for the identification, selection, and transfer of scientific
Faculty papers should be collected by the archivist. Most
senior faculty members are of sufficient importance that their
literary remains should be preserved. In all cases, basic processing
should be undertaken. It is often advisable to accept faculty papers
on a piecemeal basis and agree to return unwanted documents to the
donor. The archivist should guard against acquiring too many col-
lections of men in one area or discipline or which represent a highly
Faculty papers may include several unique types of records.
The reminiscence may take four forms:
1. Written collections prepared by the faculty member to
document his career.
2. Commentaries written to explain groups of documents relat-
ing to special interests or projects.
3. Marginal notes constituting contemporary or ex post facto
opinions on the documents.
4. Oral history, recorded or summarized by the interviewer on
magnetic tapes or disks.
The archivist should welcome reminiscences in striving to
secure maximum documentation for important activities. He should
take care that the reminiscences do not impair the integrity of exist-
ing files or serve as substitutes for contemporary documents. Written
recollections by emeritus faculty have proved very useful in our
Archives. Many departmental histories probably belong in this
category. Commentaries are preferable to marginalia and both
should be dated and signed. A tape recorded interview is preferable
to the interviewer's notes on a conversation, but both should be
A productive oral interview is the result of skillful selection
of a suitable person to be interviewed, careful preparation by the
interviewer, tact, timing, and courtesy. I favor an informal interview
beginning from a series of questions submitted in advance. The
questions help the person interviewed prepare and demonstrate the
sincerity and interest of the interviewer. Pictures may help to keep
an interview moving.
A procedure for accessioning archival material should be as
simple as possible. It should be effective, but with a minimum of
controls. In the case of departmental records, a note as to the date
and office of origin should be kept. For faculty papers, the Archive
needs a record of the date and source of the documents. For publica-
tions, it is generally not necessary to keep a precise record of the
date of accessioning, as the material usually comes from the office
of publication shortly after the publication date shown on the docu-
ments. For small lots of photographs, we enter the date and source
on the back of the print copy. Field notes are a convenient means for
recording the date and origin of archival materials received.
Classification & Arrangement
Archival material is classified by source, rather than by sub-
ject. This basic difference from library material is founded on the
principle of provenance. Provenance dictates that material is filed
according to its origin, so that it will explain the functions of that
office. The sources of college or university records are the offices
that create or file records. We have designated sixty administrative
units as record groups or primary organizational units. These rec-
ord groups are grouped together as major administrative offices,
colleges, institutes, auxiliary services, and other campuses. Typical
record groups are the Board of Trustees, President, Provost, Comp-
troller, eleven colleges, three institutes and major service offices
like Alumni Association, Extension, Physical Plant, and Student
We have about 377 sub-groups or secondary organizational
units. Typical sub-groups are bureaus, divisions, departments, and
the offices of deans or directors.
Our classification guide lists record groups and sub-groups
and gives a brief administrative history of each. It is the equivalent
of an organization chart and provides the first two numbers of the
three number record series classification.
A record series or file is a group of records or documents
having a common arrangement and a common relationship to the
functions of the office that created them. The record series are
arranged within sub-groups in order from general to specific.
Proceedings, minutes, or subject files may be assigned number one.
Housekeeping records, special files, and files of subordinate adminis-
trative units may be numbered from three to nineteen. Numbers
beginning at twenty have been reserved for private papers. We add a
fourth number -0-to indicate published materials. Our record series
range in size from single documents in envelopes to 100 cubic feet.
In determining the existing arrangement of a record series,
the archivist will generally find that it is arranged alphabetically,
numerically, or chronologically. He should avoid revising or re-
arranging the order of records received. If the file comes in good
order, it should be processed and kept in the original order. If the
file comes in disorder, but with reasonably complete and accurate
subject headings on the folders, it should be processed and arranged
alphabetically by subject. If private papers or organizational- records
come in a mess no definition required, they should be processed
and arranged in chronological order unless the volume of material
and the subjects covered lend themselves to classification and ar-
rangement by subject. Under no circumstances would I create an
arrangement alphabetically by correspondent when the person who
filed the records had not done so. A series of recent articles in
library publications have shown an unfortunate tendency to emphasize
rearrangement of papers in archival collections and manuscripts.
To provide certain self-indexing features, this is sometimes done by
arranging incoming correspondence in alphabetical order and outgoing
correspondence in chronological order. Other novice archivists have
not only rearranged their materials, but have segregated correspond-
ence by the quantity of letters from various individuals and prepared
elaborate card indexes to large collections. Frequently the proponents
of these ideas have attended basic archival courses and show a firm
grasp of control by record group, sub-group and series, but proceed
to violate basic archival principles of arrangement at the filing unit
or document level.
Processing is an extension of appraisal. It is dependent on the
knowledge acquired during the appraisal process. The same person
should do both. The key to successful processing is the constant
application of techniques, while carefully measuring your time.
Processing involves boxing for transfer, unpacking, cleaning, unfold-
ing, removing paper clips and rubber bands, stapling, taping damaged
documents, sorting, destroying duplicate and unwanted material,
replacing torn or brittle folders, adding legible folder captions and
inclusive dates, boxing, and labeling. On an uninterrupted day, an
archivist can effectively process about five cubic feet of faculty
Processing photographs presents problems arising from the
small lots, glass plates, subject classification, and poor identification
of source, date, location, and subject. We do not change the existing
order of photographic record series. Due to the kinds of subjects
photographed and the uses made of photographs, we have developed a
standard subject classification system for photographic material.
This system is used for the central filing of small lots of photographs
given to the archives, and extra prints of plates, negatives, or prints
in regular record series. The standard subject classification will
also be used for a card index to prints and negatives where no extra
prints are available. It may also be used for photographic record
series when no existing arrangement is discernible.
For archival collections, use acid-free folders obtainable from
many manufacturers of filing supplies. When processed and ready
for filing in the archives, records may be stored in fibredex docu-
ments cases, similar to those manufactured by the Hollinger Corpora-
tion, or in 10"xl2"xl5" cardboard record center type boxes. These
boxes are obtainable from most commercial box manufacturers.
They may be obtained with or without handholds in the end, lids, or
interlocking bottoms and tops. Small boxes and envelopes are used
for material occupying less than the four lineal inches which a fibre-
dex documents case will accomodate. There should be no necessity
for flat filing, except in the instance of very rare or fragile documents.
Letterbooks and 8-1/2" x 11" publications should be housed in boxes,
rather than bound or rebound.
A neat and attractive label is important in locating records and
maintaining the appearance of the archives. The archival agency
should be identified in printing on a gummed label. The following
information should be typed on the label: record group, sub-group,
series title and inclusive dates, box contents (A-K, 1950-53, Corre-
spondence), series number, and box number.
The type of shelving to be used in a university archives should
be determined by the boxes. It is not necessary to have easily ad-
justable shelving. The shelving should be 40 inches wide, 12 or 27
inches deep depending upon whether one or two boxes are to be ac-
commodated, and as high as space will permit considering the loca-
tion of the ceiling beams and lights, air circulation and accessibility.
The archival storage area should be laid out for maximum
storage space. The archivist will never have enough storage space
to accommodate the records that should be preserved. He and the
librarian will share a basic greediness for space. After maximum
provision is made for storage, the archivist should use the balance
of his area for three other functions: processing, reference, and
The archivist should concentrate on accurate description of
materials which he processes. He should write down all pertinent
data as he processes the records. This includes inclusive dates on
each box, a general narrative description and evaluation of the con-
tents, notes on significant letters and documents, information on the
type of material to be found in the series, information about the
reason for the record's creation or evidential value and information
as to its subject matter content or informational value. The notes of
the processor should be organized and typed as a supplementary find-
ing aid for the records series. From these notes it is possible to
prepare an inventory work sheet (see Fig. 1) or summary description
of the contents of the record series. The inventory work sheet may
also be prepared on records in the office prior to transfer to the
INVENTORY WORK SHEET
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
ROOM I . LIBRARY
October 22, 196<*
Cl.itlfic.tion Number J5/3/2
DEPARTMENT OH OPTIC*
Public Services, University
OUNCE Of MATERIAL
OrPICI LOCATION IRUILDIN*. MOON NUN
Room 19, Library
1 lettersize file drawer
M. J. Brichford, University
COVERED. DUPLICATION. MIIN OR PUO
Departmental file maintained .by the University Archives for use in inventorying,
collecting, processing and servicing records transferred to its custody wrier
Faculty Letter #68, Nov. 29, 1963, including folders on each sub-group ot oecci"'".v
university office containing!
1) typewritten field notes on conversations with faculty, administrators
and secretaries about records and recollections relating to the developn> = n*
of teaching, research and service at the University)
2) correspondence with offices and individuals concerning official records,
faculty papers and publications)
3) supplementary finding ido and lists containing additional information
concerning subject content and dates of records series listed in the
University Archives Records Control File)
4) published and reproduced material about the functions of offices and caroprs
5) related material.
numerical by record group classification number and numerical by sub-group class ification numbqr
INDEX. PINOINO AIDI on nL* auiou thereunder.
University Archives Classification Guide lists numbers & contains brief administrative history .
2M 1063 817.:; K
INVENTORY WORK SHEET
I believe that the freedom of a narrative description is prefera-
ble to an inventory work sheet that contains a large number of fill-in
boxes. I am equally convinced that the archival processor should
follow a standardized format in preparing a work sheet for transcrip-
tion to a record series control card. Insistence on this uniform
phrasing of the description has earned the lasting enmity of my
A records sf t9 or file Is a iroup of records or documents hawing
(l) 8 common arrangement and
(?) a common relationship to the functions of the office that created them.
Be soeclflc In listing records series. Do not lump several toqthr as "miscellaneous
Financial Records", "Routine Correspondence Piles" or "Ledgers Also, do not Hat
ferns as records series unless the form listed Is the only document In the file.
A short f nml I Inr title, doscrlptlve of Informot lonal content of the file.
Inclusive dates of documents. If an active record, omit the final date e.g. 1955-
Total cubic feet (I 1/2 for letter size drawer, 2 for legal slie, I fer 10,000 tab cards,
l/b for a 12" 5 x 8 cnrd ft le, 1/10 for IB" 3 x 5 card file)
ANNUAL ACCUMULATI ON
For most recent year In cubic feet.
SOURCE OF MATERIAL
Complete only If the record series dons not come from the office which created It,
e.g. records collected or held In private hands*
and form numbers preceded by modifying Information (a
g. dupl 1
mimeograph copies of monthly summaries of,,,) and followed by a concrete
c 1 <i 1 ms
not 1 cos
Information explaining why the record Is found t Its present location, "submitted
by" or "sent to" another office. I.e. Itt procedural slgnlf Icance.
Reference to University Statutes or General Rules.
Description of Information or documentation contained In fhe record series.
1. Single Form - "showing" followed by a list of entries,
2. Fl les - "Incl udlng" or "containing" followed by a list of documents.
% Correspondence and Subject Files . "relating to" or "concerning" followed by
a list of significant subjects.
Supplementary data showing ;jny previous disposals, federal and office Internal audits,
or any other data pertinent to a determination of the minimum retention period.
Chronological, alphabetical, numerical or by status (active or Inactive).
Also list secondary and tertiary arrangements thereunder.
Gi ve the number of years the record series must be retained In active office space
for administrative, fiscal or leqal reference.
INVENTORY WORK SHEET
graduate student assistants and other writers, but it has produced
readily understandable descriptions which may be copied to produce
a guide. The instructions on the back of the inventory work sheet
contain the basic formula. Start with the title or titles modified by
information about the type of document, means of production, and
frequency of issuance. Follow with a statement concerning the
procedural significance of the record. State why it was created or
filed in this location and cite requirements in statutes or regulations.
This forms the basis for a judgment of the evidential value of the
record series. At this point, I begin a series of adverbial clauses
beginning with "including," "containing," "concerning," "relating,"
"showing," and "about" which lead to statements about the contents of
the record series, the format of the documents it contains and the
significant subjects covered. The processor's work notes should
indicate the most significant subjects. They should also refer to
important documents, correspondents, and dates. Explanatory notes
relating to other record series, indexes, gaps, and duplication should
follow. Our record series control card (see Fig. 2) provides the
basic control over processed material and is consulted first by re-
searchers. It has twenty-one lines for a narrative description of the
Liberal Arts and Sciences
12/19/63 and 5/21/6
by type of material and chronologically thereunder
Papers of Victor E. Shelford, professor of Zoology (191^-1 9*16), including correspondence,
reports, publications and statements relating to plant, animal and aquatic ecology;
scientific meetings, lectures and papers; field trips and studies; editing and securing
contributions for publications (19,?<t-56); the organization, development, membership and
functions of the Ecological Society of America and its committees (1937-'*5); preservation
of natural areas as sanctuaries for the ecological study of biotic and animal comnmniti>-s;
the political involvement of ecologists in preserving natural areas; grasslands areas ,ir<d
the Grasslands Research Foundation (1931-58); wildlife management research (l'J.55-5'0; the
University Committee on Natural Ar;as and Uncultivated Lands (19^6-^9); animaJ populations
and solar radiation (l')^7-^Ji); a proposed plant and animal life sciences building (19'32-S5)
the history of ecology (1955-61) and the scientific contributions of Shelford and his
students. The scientific contributions are reprints of articles by Shelford Ct vols.
1906-W>) and his students (5 vols., igiS-W.
RECORD SERIES CONTROL CARD
If additional information must go on a supplementary finding aid,
we note this on the control card. The finding aid is placed in the
appropriate sub-group folder in a nearby filing cabinet. A primary
finding aid reflects the arrangement of the record series and usually
takes the form of a box list, showing the dates, subjects covered, and
significant documents. For important series, it may be a folder label
listing, which extends control about as far as an archivist can afford
to go. Because archival records are filed by source, secondary find-
ing aids may be required for archival material. It is frequently
necessary to make relative indexes or lists of subjects that are treated
in various record series or filing units. The modern archivist does
not prepare 3" x5" card indexes to his holdings.
The archivist should publish supplemental information, such as
lists of topics which may be developed from materials in the archives,
special subject lists, manuscript guides, and other documents which
will assist the researcher in locating information on his subject. He
should impress upon serious researchers the importance of discuss-
ing possible source material with him. He should be a consultant
capable of guiding researchers through the masses of modern docu-
mentary source materials. He should promote and improve the uses
of his material by scholars.
I will close with two quotations from the faculty letter announc-
ing our program:
"As an institution of higher learning, the University of Illinois has
a responsibility to the academic community and to the public for
the preservation of records containing evidence and information
with respect to its origins and development and the achievements
of its officers, employees and students. The University is equally
concerned with preserving material of research or historical
value and assisting its administrative and academic officers by
relieving their offices of inactive records, eliminating records
that need not be preserved, and providing space and custody in
the University Archives for material that should be preserved."
"The University Archivist will:
1 - Decide if material no longer needed by the office of origin
should be preserved in the Archives;
2 - Classify and arrange such records and material as may be
transferred to his care for permanent preservation and
keep the same accessible to all persons interested, subject
to proper and reasonable rules and restrictions as he may
3 - Process transferred material to destroy duplicates and
other items that do not have sufficient evidential or in-
formational value to warrant their continued preservation;
4 - Advise, upon request, concerning standards, procedures,
and techniques required for the efficient creation, use, and
destruction of University records."
There is no easy way to meet these important responsibilities.
The appraising and processing of archival material requires hand
work and experience. Its expense is justifiable only if your institu-
tion recognizes that it has an obligation to document and to preserve
a record of its contributions to society.
American Institute of Physics. "Notebooks, Correspondence, Manu-
scripts: Sources For the Fuller Documentation of the History
of Physics." New York, 1963.
Bauer, G. Philip. "The Appraisal of Current and Recent Records,"
The National Archives Staff Information Circulars, 13:1-25,
Brichford, Maynard. "Preservation of Business Records," History
News, 11:77, Aug. 1956.
Gilb, Corinne L. "Tape -Recorded Interviewing: Some Thoughts From
California," The American Archivist, 20:335-344, Oct. 1957.
Harvard University. "The Harvard University Archives" (Guides to
the Harvard Libraries, No. 4), Cambridge, 1957.
Lewinson, Paul. "Archival Sampling," The American Archivist,
20:291-312, Oct. 1957.
Lewinson, Paul. "Toward Accessioning and Standards Research
Records," The American Archivist, 23:297-309, July 1960.
Mood, Fulmer, and Carstensen, Vernon. "University Records and
Their Relation to General University Administration," College
and Research Libraries, 11:337-345, Oct. 1950.
Schellenberg, T. R. "The Appraisal of Modern Public Records,"
Bulletins of the National Archives, 8:1-46, Oct. 1956.
Woolf, Harry. "The Conference on Science Manuscripts," ISIS,
53:3-157, March 1962.
Classification & Arrangement
Holmes, Oliver W. "Archival Arrangement; Five Different Opera-
tions at Five Different Levels," The American Archivist,
27:21-41, Jan. 1964.
National Archives. "The Control of Records at the Record Group
Level," The National Archives Staff Information Circulars,
15:1-12, July 1950.
National Archives. "Principles of Arrangement," The National
Archives Staff Information Papers, 18:1-14, June 1956.
National Archives. "Archival Principles: Selections From the
Writings of Waldo Gifford Leland," The National Archives
Staff Information Papers, 20:1-13, March 1955.
Schellenberg, Theodore R. "Archival Principles of Arrangement,"
The American Archivist, 24:11-24, Jan. 1961.
Kane, Lucile M. "A Guide to the Care and Administration of Manu-
scripts," Bulletins of the American Association for State and
Local History, 2:333-388, Sept. 1960.
Minogue, Adelaide E. "Physical Care, Repair, and Protection of
Manuscripts," Library Trends, 5:344-351, Jan. 1957.
Rieger, Morris. "Packing, Labeling, and Shelving at the National
Archives," The American Archivist, 25:417-426, Oct. 1962.
Evans, Frank B. "The State Archivist and the Academic Researcher,
'Stable Companionship'," The American Archivist, 26:319-321,
National Archives. "The Preparation of Preliminary Inventories,"
The National Archives Staff Information Circulars, 14:1-14,
U. S. Library of Congress. The National Union Catalog of Manuscript
Collections, 1959-1961. Ann Arbor, Mich., J. W. Edwards, 1962.
Harold W. Tribolet
Librarians and archivists face a great number of administrative
problems: personnel, building programs, heating, air-conditioning,
trustees, and so on. This discussion adds a new dimension
conservationto their problems. Many of the points touched upon
will not help specifically in handling the tons of day-to-day materials
charged to their care, but they will consider the hazards of disinte-
gration and the techniques of preservation of rarities.
At one time conservation was a pure craft, and still is more
or less; however, today the craft and the science of conservation
have merged. With this merger, we now have a more positive solu-
tion to the complex problems of adding years to the life of important
material of the past and of the present.
Strangely, many of the early conservators were very secretive
about their techniques; they were not inclined to share their knowl-
edge; and too much emphasis was placed on the tradition of the craft.
Amusing stories about techniques and formulas have been passed
down from one generation to the next. An example of such a story
involves the simple operation of oiling leather bindings. One man
proudly told that his Grandfather had always used banana peels to
furnish leather bindings, and he said: "There is nothing better."
This man supported an unproved and questionable technique, and
ignored the scientists who have proposed other solutions for leather
preservation. The story is typical of those passed on from one
generation to another. In most instances, they have done no good and
in many cases they have done harm.
The eight factors which cause disintegration are: heat, light,
air, moisture, insects, other materials, inherent characteristics,
Objects stored in attics or in areas where there is excessive
heat disintegrate much faster than do those items that have been
stored under ideal conditions. In fact, conservationists use heat to
make accelerated age tests.
Materials exposed to sunlight fade and become dehydrated.
Fluorescent and incandescent lighting as well as reflected natural
light also cause objects to show early signs of disintegration.
Harold W. Tribolet is Manager, Extra Bindery, The Lakeside Press,
R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Chicago, Illinois.
Fortunately, it is possible to retard the injurious effect of light with
controlled illumination and light filters.
Some people believe that air promotes the life of paper; how-
ever, this is not true. Many of the objects that have lasted best have
been preserved in book form under compression. The Gutenberg
Bible is a good example of this. Copies of the book that are not ex-
hibited are in better condition than those frequently exposed to the
atmosphere, much of which is polluted to some degree.
Paper exposed to excessive moisture for prolonged periods
frequently suffers from destructive mildew or unsightly foxing.
The ravages caused by insects around a library are so well
known that there is no need to elaborate upon them.
By "other materials" we mean the migration of injurious acids
from one material to another. As an illustration, a short time after
a newspaper clipping is placed inside a book, a discoloration acid
damage becomes evident on the adjoining leaves. The bad material,
in this case the newspaper clipping, always affects the good material,
and the migratory action is never in the other direction.
The inherent characteristics of the objects to be preserved are
important. If poor materials are involved, a short life span can be
expected unless ideal storage conditions are provided. Good materials
have a better chance of survival under adverse conditions, but they,
too, will respond favorably in a suitable environment.
People create a number of hazards through poor handling of
items, often a result of pure ignorance. The simplest illustration
is the extensive way in which pressure-sensitive plastic tape has
been used to repair damaged paper during the last decade or so.
Let us suppose that we have a sheet of early eighteenth-century
paper that shows signs of bad handling: torn margins, water spots,
and applications of pressure-sensitive plastic tape. Assuming that
the image is on one side of the paper, it would be possible to adhere
a piece of thin mulberry tissue to the back of the piece of paper to
support it. This provides physical support for the weakened fibers.
An operation of this kind requires paste and many conservationists
consider old-fashioned wheat paste the best. Suitable support for the
damaged sheet of paper could also be provided with a piece of all-rag,
chemically-safe paper. Silk chiffon is sometimes used. This ma-
terial, however, has limitations which are determined by the adhesive,
and the chemical characteristic of the paper to which it is being ap-
plied. For example, a piece of paper which is highly acidic will cause
disintegration of silk chiffon much earlier than all-rag paper which
is chemically safe. Silk chiffon is nevertheless considered a good
supporting fabric where transparency is essential.
In handling a recent restoration involving a historically-
important insurance policy, which had been reduced to hundreds of
irregular pieces of paper by broken glass, silk chiffon was selected
as the best supporting material. It was possible to paste the many
fragments and slide them into correct position on the silk, making
the document whole and strong.
Other materials which successfully support paper are cotton,
linen, and a relatively new material known as polyester web, a matted
mylar fiber that has been found to be most useful in supporting folding
maps, for it is very strong in relation to its thickness. All of the
bonding problems involving mylar fiber have not been solved; how-
ever, the material is worthy of further experimentation.
When a broadside, drawing, or similar sheet of paper requires
mounting or hinging to a rigid support, an all- rag fiber board should
be used rather than a board made of impermanent fiber. Poor board
liberates acids that migrate to the paper placed against it, causing
discoloration and disintegration.
If a mounted piece is to be displayed in a frame, it is advisable
to provide a mat, also made of all-rag board. The mat will keep the
item away from the surface of the glass on which moisture will some-
times form under certain atmospheric conditions. A piece of
moisture-proof material should be applied to the back of a framed
piece, attached to the wooden molding, to prevent the penetration of
moisture through the back surface. A great number of framed docu-
ments and drawings have been ruined or damaged from moisture
absorbed from a wall, especially an outside wall, and from exces-
sively humid air.
When both sides of a paper object are to be protected and dis-
played, it can be supported within a contour mat, then placed between
two sheets of Plexiglas UF1, a clear plastic formulated to give pro-
tection against injurious light rays, both natural and artificial. Al-
though Plexiglas will break, it does not splinter as glass does. The
National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., recently installed this
material over its skylight glass to diminish the light problem. This
plastic should not, however, be placed over an unfixed pastel, for
static electricity may develop and cause the chalk to loosen.
Paper that is badly worn, weak, and on the fringe of total dis-
integration can be deacidified, then laminated between thin plastic
film and tissue. In this process heat and pressure combine the
materials into one unit. If a book is involved, the leaves are taken
from the binding, laminated, then rebound, usually in a new cover,
for the thickness of the paper is increased by the lamination.
Experimental work in this country and in Europe is attempting
to perfect a deacidification process that can be applied to the leaves
of books that do not require lamination or rebinding. It is a difficult
problem, for the chemical vapors that are most beneficial to the
paper cause a warp to develop in the leaves, especially when the grain
of the paper is horizontal. When the technique is perfected, and it
probably will be, it will extend the life span of millions of books at a
very low cost.
Many paper objects books, broadsides, etchings, prints that
have developed stains can be bleached with liquid chemicals. Special
care must be taken in handling wet paper and, of course, the chemi-
cals must be mild. In most instances the washed paper is sized with
I gelatin and dyed to bring it back to its natural color. H. J. Plender-
leith, formerly with the British Museum Research Laboratory,
recommends Chloramine T as a safe chemical for the washing
process. This chemical must be washed out of the paper before the
job is considered finished. When washing, sizing, and tinting an ob-
ject, one's aims should be the retention of the original characteristics
of the paper, whether it be a book, broadside, or other paper object.
The indentations in a printed piece should not be removed; this can
be accomplished by pressing the wet paper when it is about 99 per
cent dry between soft white blotting paper.
Simple tears in paper can be repaired with mulberry tissue or
cotton fibers, applied with wheat flour paste. Avoid the handy
pressure-sensitive plastic tape, for it is not a suitable material
when permanence is a factor. A sophisticated restoration can be
accomplished by the addition of a matching paper to an incomplete
piece of paper. In this process, fibers are pulled from the old and
new pieces of paper, then pasted together. If a laid paper with ob-
vious chain marks is being treated, the chain marks of the two pieces
of paper should be aligned.
Paper pulp, prepared by cooking paper scraps, then balling
them, and finally mixing them with water before application, is a
good material for repairing small holes, such as worm holes and
perforations. Another way of repairing perforated paper is to per-
forate an identical piece of paper with the same type of machine
which was used for the original perforation. The little circular
pieces of paper punched out can then be mixed with thin paste and
pressed into the holes of the paper being restored by means of a
dental tool. This type of restoration is better for antique paper than
smooth, modern paper.
If a book lacks a leaf, a simple facsimile can be installed, using
a photograph or a photostat made from a complete copy of a similar
book. A better solution is a Xerox reproduction, made on paper that
resembles the paper in the book. The most sophisticated kind of a
facsimile requires an engraving, made from a photograph of an
^original leaf, ink carefully mixed to match, and finally an impression
fon the correct paper. Since such a facsimile could lead to deception,
it is advisable to stamp or print the word "FACSIMILE" in the gutter
Although all facsimiles are not identified as such, they should
be. In trying to identify facsimile pages in a book, the following steps
should be taken:
1. Examine each leaf against a strong light to determine if
the chain marks or other characteristics of paper are identical.
2. Using your fingers or a guage, check all leaves to deter- 4
mine if they are abnormally thick or thin.
3. With a magnifying glass, examine the edges of the leaves
and observe the marks left by the cutting blade of the guillotine
cutter. Any leaves that have been added will not have identical
serrations, because they were cut with another knife.
4. Turning the pages of the book, look for particles of dirt
or migratory stains the fly speck or foxing marks that trans-
fer from one page to another. If the marks are not visible on
the opposite page, then it is probable the clean page is a fac-
simile or one that requires further examination.
Vellum is the most independent and probably the most perma-
nent of the materials used for the leaves of books, book covers,
broadsides, diplomas, and similar documents. Very little can be
done or needs to be done to lengthen its life; however, in some in-
stances it must be flattened or repaired. If a sharp crease or fold
must be eliminated, the vellum is moistened or humidified, then
drum-stretched on a flat surface with weights around the edges.
Never use a steam-iron to solve this problem! If a void has to be
filled, a piece of similar vellum can be bonded into position. If a
tear must be repaired, stitches with suturing-gut will provide the
A sympathetic restoration of existing binding materials is
desirable, to be sure, but in some cases there is not enough of the
original material to save or it is entirely gone. In such instances, a
period style or replica binding can be applied. To illustrate this
point, the rare first illustrated edition of The Canterbury Tales came
to us in an inadequate binding applied during the last century. After
the leaves were repaired and sewn in the style of the fifteenth century,
wooden boards were laced to the cords of the raised bands, and a
calfskin cover was applied. In the manner of the period of the book,
all details of reconstruction were kept deliberately crude, the tooling
of the leather was irregular, and finally the leather was discolored
Most of the leather used for binding and restoration work is M
tanned in Europe, where great emphasis is put on the longevity of the
skins produced. The best skins are vegetable tanned in the traditional
way, are free of injurious acids, and are treated with a protective
salt to resist the effect of the polluted atmosphere. Although vegetable
tannage is excellent and is easily manipulated, it does have an affinity
for the acids in the air. On the other hand, chrome tanned leather
does not have this weakness, but it is difficult to form and tool. One
English tanner is now doing a combination tannage which may be
superior to the traditional process.
Although little can be done to preserve cloth bindings, apart
from putting them into protective cases, leather binding must be
treated periodically with preparations that have been found to be
beneficial. The initial treatment involves application of a solution
of potassium lactate then, after this has dried, a mixture of neat's-
foot oil and lanolin. Currently this dual treatment appears to be the
best. We hope, however, the scientists will eventually develop a
single, all-purpose solution to protect leather from polluted air,
insects, and mold. Cleansed air, controlled humidity, and an even
temperature are, of course, important elements in the preservation
Vellum bindings will not benefit from any preparation known
today. The material can, however, be cleaned with an eraser or a
damp cloth with saddle soap.
Since all of us are only temporary custodians of the things we
possess or have under our control, it is important that we recognize
the serious responsibility of preserving the objects of the past.
Preservation alone may suffice in some instances and restoration in
others. It is a decision that is not always easy, but we are obligated
to know and understand what can be done.
THE REFERENCE USE OF ARCHIVES
Clifford K. Shipton
In this paper the archivist's obligations to his clientele; ad-
ministrative, scholarly, and other will be discussed, and archivists
will be warned of the pitfalls into which we in Cambridge have fallen.
There is no question that the bread and butter clientele of a
university archive is the administrative officer. Recently there came
to my desk, detoured by the congestion of the regular channels, a
request for a certain folder from the Comptroller's files for the year
1962/63. We started a boy to the depths of our storage space while
they started their office boy for our office. I trust that their paths
intersected at the right time and place. This is, of course, records
management, pure and simple, but it is the way in which we finance
our archives. Some years ago President James B. Conant informed
a meeting of administrators that the University budget would have to
be cut, and said, "Taking the departments alphabetically, 'Archives'."
At which two department heads whom I had never met personally
spoke up and said, "You can't cut the Archives budget; it would cost
us more to do the work which they are doing for us."
In most universities with which I am acquainted the archives
program has obtained recognition and support only by offering
records management service. To some historians, this seems to
clutter up the fields of research. We once had a Director of the
Harvard University Library who was a Pulitzer Prize winning his-
torian, and, irritated at the demands of records management, he once
told me that we should accept in the Harvard Archives only truly
archival material, material worth permanent preservation. "All
right," I said, "but you will have to inform all of these department
heads that we can no longer service their records they won't take it
from me." He thought of that list for a moment, sighed, and said,
"All right; how much space will you need for their records?"
We have tried various compromises to solve the space and
service problem, such as giving keys to the storage space to the
financial offices and telling them that they would have to service
their records in our custody. That has not worked particularly well
because, left to themselves, the administrative offices will send in
their records in odd-shaped and slack-filled boxes which take up
The author is Custodian of the Harvard University Archives, Cam-
entirely too much space. Our threat to repack their records at their
expense has caused the worst offenders to reform. We are also
thinking of charging the administrative offices rent for the shelving
occupied by their non-permanent records in our custody. Faced
with that proposal, I think that some of them will agree that the
destruction schedules can be hastened.
Actually I should be very sorry to give over the records manage-
ment service because of the opportunity which it gives me to observe the
use of the material before I join in authorizing its destruction. To
me there is something truly awful in having to make the decision as
to what the historian of future generations is to know about this one.
Obviously the decision should be made by someone with training and
experience in historical research. I have known commercial records
management services to recommend the destruction, as useless, of
material of priceless historical value, actually protected by the
statutes of the State. On the other hand, historians sometimes ask
us to preserve material so bulky that any knowledge of records
management costs demonstrates such a policy to be impractical.
Some university archivists have found their most serious
problem that of convincing the administrative offices that they can
be entrusted with confidential files. One university does not entrust
its archivist with the minutes of its trustees, although they have in
part been printed. In another university a dean is now proposing to
destroy the student folder file because of the disciplinary material
which it contains. If not destroyed, this file will be, a hundred years
from now, the most frequently consulted segment of the archives.
So critical is this question of a student and soon alumni file
in several universities that I am going to repeat what I have told a
few of them of our experience at Cambridge. We have two files,
each of which in theory contains a folder for every person who ever
matriculated in the University. One is a public file of historical
material which began in the alumni records office, and the other is
a file of confidential records from the administrative offices. The
public file contains ephemeral printed material, odd manuscript
letters, and the fruits of clipping services. It certainly contains
some odd material. In looking into the folder of a man of the Class
of 1724 I found an annotation of the fact that 230 years after his
graduation he had been sent a letter requesting that he verify his
The archival student folder file is quite another matter. When
we set it up we found that over a period of twenty years some two
dozen administrative offices had kept student folder files. On the
average, every student in this period had folders in five different
files admissions, scholarships, the different deans, etc. So long as
we kept these files intact as parts of the archives of the several
offices, servicing them was a troublesome matter. If, for example,
a request came for the folder for a boy in the Class of 1914, we had
to look on a chart to see which offices were keeping student folder
files at that time. So we threw archival theory to the wind and com-
bined all of these files into one.
Naturally, these archival student folder files are one of the
most sensitive and confidential in our custody. I make a point never |
to look at the folder of anyone I know. No folder is ever delivered
over the counter to the reading room. If an FBI agent asked to see
one, I used to inspect it myself, answer his questions if reasonable,
and in case of any doubt refer him to the Registrar. Of late years
this subject has become so sensitive that we have referred all FBI
questions to the appropriate administrative officers. One of these
days we shall, without doubt, begin combining the older segments of
these archival student folder files with the public alumni folder file.
The most difficult decision which I ever had to make was in this field.
Admission applications are, of course, a gold mine for historians.
With their letters of recommendation and what is usually the first
surviving literary effort of the applicants, they are most illuminating.
However, at a time when our College was receiving ten times as
many admission applications as it could accept, we had to decide that
we could keep the records of only those who were admitted, and who
came. It would have been just too costly to box and store the rejected
applications until they could be made available to a generation of
historians yet unborn. Without doubt an appreciable number of the
biographical queries which come to us by mail could have been
answered from this file, but we could not justify the cost of keeping
and servicing this material.
Until we became deeply involved in the records management
program, about half of the material in our department was historical
rather than archival, and was readily available to any one who walked
in and filled out an ordinary library use slip. For the most part this
public material was classed in typical library manner and distinguishei
from strictly archival material by call number. The large majority
of the questions asked about the past of the University and about its
graduates can be answered from this material located through a
typical library card catalog.
We have, however, committed the great heresy of interfiling
with this catalog, reference cards locating essentially every individual
mentioned, or subject discussed, in the first two hundred years of our
archival material. Thus the indices to our archives are interfiled ^
with the card catalogs of our historical collection which has proved *
to be an eminently practical arrangement. Thus if you are interested
in Mr. X you will find in the card catalog references to books and
articles about him, if he is known chiefly for his Harvard connection,
and to the theses and prize papers which he wrote while a student.
You will find the references to him in the Corporation Records, and
will be given a good hundred-year-old transcript to inspect. You will
find references in the Faculty Records, and will be given photostats.
But if you want to use the Overseers' Records you will be questioned
a little more closely, because we have no transcript of those. So, in
effect, you will have ready access to everything in the Archives relat-
ing to a man who graduated before the Civil War.
This raises the question of how deeply a university should go
into the preservation of the biographical material relating to its
graduates, their published works, manuscripts, and association
material. Our rule is that we shall keep the manuscripts of, and
printed material relating to, men known chiefly for their Harvard
connection. Fugitive material relating to most men will be dropped
into their alumni folder files, but not material relating to John
Adams or John Kennedy. Association material is almost never kept.
No large institution can afford the effort and space required by a
collection of the works of its graduates. Modern universities are so
diverse that such a collection has no more significance than a collec-
tion of books by, say, red-headed men. At Cambridge we long ago
had to abandon the effort to keep up a collection of books written by
The ephemeral publications of the Faculty, the reprints of
articles and the like, are a troublesome matter. For years we asked
Faculty members to send us two copies of all such pamphlets, which
we boxed temporarily. When the authors died, we bound these
pamphlets up in two volumes, one of which went with their papers in
the Archives, and one of which went to the library concerned with the
subject matter of their work. Recently the flood of reprints from the
men of science has made us review this system as too costly to be
worth while. After all, these articles can be located in their original
places of publication by use of the standard indexes.
Returning from this digression to the question of serving the
administrative offices, I would like to point out that some of the
records are unwritten and some of the service unrecorded. As you
and I well know, many of the most important decisions in the history
of an institution never do get into the records. Probably all private
universities have an unwritten policy of establishing admission quotas
by race, religion, or geography. The last is sometimes avowed, the
others, never. Incoming presidents and deans need to know the history
of such policies. At Harvard the Corporation keeps, besides its
minutes, a record of "agreements and understandings" which are not
regarded as being binding votes. Usually the archivist has a better
historical perspective of university policy than administrative officers
serving for short terms, so his knowledge of unrecorded agreements,
or the reasons for recorded ones, can be very useful. And this mean
of course, that the archivist should have a faculty appointment so thai
he will be aware of the unrecorded winds of policy. In a small colleg
it would be an ideal situation to have the archivist also secretary to
the faculty and administrative boards, but of course these are full-
time jobs in large universities. I have often thought that it would be
desirable to separate the record-keeping function of the secretaries'
offices from their other functions, and to designate the archivist to
keep the records so that he may be aware of what is going on, but no
one has warmed to the idea.
All academic bodies have a tendency to shatter into committees
in which the most vital decisions are arrived at, and their records
furnish the background of the bare formal votes of Trustees and
Faculty. In Cambridge the committee records are a headache becaus
of the habit of giving these bodies such ambiguous titles as Committe
of Ten, or of Eleven, or of Twelve. The men who served on them wil
think the archivist stupid because he does not remember what a
particular committee was about. This has forced us to distinguish
between the records of standing committees and those of the ad hoc
committees. The former are arranged alphabetically in the archives
of their parent departments, and the latter, chronologically within
departments. The fact that in our confused Cambridge system a
dozen bodies can spawn committees on the same subject has driven
me to considering placing all ad hoc committee records in one
chronological order, but this is just too heretical.
Curiously enough, the most frequent use of committee records
has been in connection with law suits, particularly over university
property. As these cases tend to be recurring, we can usually amaze
each new generation of university lawyers by instantly putting the
desired information in their hands in exactly the form which they
want. We have never failed to produce evidence wanted by the Uni-
Each university archive will be asked to furnish various catch-
all services for the administrative offices, and it is usually easier to
perform them than to convince the offices that these are not archival
functions. We keep, for example, for the Treasurer's Office files of
presumably worthless stocks and bonds, which of course were in-
herited and never purchased by the Treasurer. From these files he
occasionally extracts triumphantly a certificate for stocks or bonds
of a corporation which has experienced a resurrection.
Sometimes the administration offices get curious ideas of the
scope of our services. One day the Building and Grounds department
telephoned me and enquired, "If we drive a well behind Dunster Hous<
will we find water ?" I flipped off the shelf behind me a volume con-
taining a map of Cambridge in 1630, and found that it showed a pond
in the place where Buildings and Grounds proposed to search for
water. So I told them to go ahead, and they did so, not realizing that
this service was unusual.
Once the department in charge of repairing art objects called
up the Archives and asked for instructions regarding the disposition
of the portrait of Governor William Stoughton, one of the key pieces
in the history of American art. So I said, "send it to the Archives,"
where it hangs, one of several fine works of art sent to us by de-
partments which were confused as to our archival functions.
So far as physical problems are concerned, the most trouble-
some office to serve is that of Buildings and Grounds. In the end,
we assigned them a segment of the archives and told them to keep
their own plans in order. In fact, no order is discernible to an
outsider, but they find things. They are grateful for even the small
service which we perform because of their experience when after the
last war the University temporarily took over most of the buildings of
Camp Devens for off-campus student housing. These were beautiful,
solid brick and concrete buildings, with nary a plan to show where
wires or pipes ran.
Considering the whole picture of the use of the Harvard Archives
by administrative offices, it is obvious that the greatest number of
reference services is in relation to such uninspiring things as
cancelled checks. The use of their really archival material in our
custody is relatively rare, except for the minutes of the Corporation.
These are so active that the keeping of the index up-to-date is a
matter of significance. Beyond this, research by the administrative
offices is most frequently to determine the precise terms of former
gifts. There is relatively little use of departmental correspondence
except by the museums, which seem to be constantly losing objects.
However, the museums tend to keep their correspondence for a
hundred years, so they have most of the service problem.
The university archive is much more concerned than is the
business, or even the government, archive, with finding facts or
affording means of research for the public. The necessity of good
public relations for the institution, the tradition that the university is
a source of information, and the fact that it has a great roll of
graduates in whom descendants and scholars are interested, drives
the archive to give public service. One university president of my
acquaintance set up the archive as a sort of record vault to his office,
with a private stairway leading down to it; but other demands soon
forced his archivist into offering the wide public services normal for
In Cambridge, the first question of the public use of the archives
came in June, 1747, when the town of Dunstable asked the Harvard
Faculty for a transcript of the record of a young man recently ex-
pelled for good reason. The town had a legitimate interest in knowing
why the student had been expelled, for it was considering settling
him as its minister. The Faculty refused the transcript, refused to
show the records to the Dunstable committee, and resolved that "the
affairs committed to Writing in this Book [ are not looked upon] to be
records in any Respect, but only an Account of Various Things, as So
many Memoranda to ourselves." Here is a curious forerunner of the
"agreements and understandings" volume now kept by the Corporation.
When the Faculty said that its minutes were not "records" it had in
mind the New England concept of a public record to which the public
had an inalienable right of access.
The most recent vote of the Harvard Corporation in regard to
the use of its archives was to resolve that they were not maintained
for the use of Jack Homers searching for Ph.D. thesis topics. The
attitude of the Corporation has been made somewhat more charitable
by the successful exploitation of the early financial records in the
writing of economic history.
In spite of enunciated University policy, most of the use of the
Archives for historical research has been by the public. Maynard
Brichford, University Archivist, University of Illinois, in particular
has raised the question of how far we should go in providing guidance
and advice to these public users. No university archive was ever set
up for this purpose, but no archivist can avoid the problem. It under-
lines the point that the archivist or the staff man making the contact
with the public should have as much Ph.D. training as possible in
order that he can give such advice. Frequently the archivist will have
to decide that the would-be user may not have access to particular
records. It may be because he is personally inadequate, as a school
child wanting to use valuable manuscripts. Sometimes the scholarship
of the would-be user is inadequate. Recently a man came in from
another university, doing a Ph.D. dissertation on a subject on which,
as I found by putting a few questions, he had not done the fundamental
reading. There would have been no point in trying to help him, so I
gave him the few items which he asked for, but refrained from telling
him of masses of further material.
Sometimes the archivist who is a knowing historian can see
that a proposed book cannot be written because the requisite material
is not available. Surely he cannot refuse to give this warning. There
have been times when the applicant shrugged off my warning, and I
then felt that I had to refuse to make the material available because
to do so would have been to waste the time of our staff. I do not think
that any archivist is appointed just to be a vending machine, handing
out whatever is indicated by the user. He has, I think, been appointed
to exercise his discretion and to make use of his knowledge as an
archivist. It is not an easy thing to make these unpleasant decisions
against applicants, but such a policy of discrimination is absolutely
essential. The policy of offering service to the public can sometimes
become costly for the archivist's employer. From time to time
friends of mine teaching in other parts of the country will send their
graduate students to New England to write their theses, and instruct
them to look me up. The students show me their plans, and I say,
"A good subject, but because the available source material is much
greater than your professor thought, too wide for a thesis." Then I
cut down the topic and area of research, and wind up guiding a Ph.D.
dissertation which has nothing at all to do with my employer. I have
greatly enjoyed these contacts, but I feel guilty about them.
Our general rule for making material available to the visiting
scholar is as follows. If the number on his call slip is for an item in
the historical collection attached to the archives he is shown it without
question. If the call number is for archival material more than fifty
years old, he fills out a special form for my eventual approval, but,
subject to the discretion of the reading room attendant, he is im-
mediately given the file which he wishes to see.
Correspondence for the period since 1909 is a special case.
There are many applicants to use the correspondence of Presidents
Charles W. Eliot and A. Lawrence Lowell particularly. Most of these
requests are reasonable, but a few have the purpose of sensational,
and distorted, exploitation of the material. The doubtful requests we
sift out by insisting that the applicants record the purpose of their re-
search on the application form. We get an occasional visitor who ob-
stinately refuses to tell us why he wants to use the material, and him
we must turn away.
Often we can save the applicant's time by ourselves looking at
the files of restricted correspondence to see whether or not there is
anything of interest to him. If there is, the applicant submits a formal
request which, if I approve, is passed on to the Secretary to the
Corporation, or to the literary heirs, as the case may be. I do not
remember that any request which I approved professionally has ever
been turned down. Sometimes when an incompetent person asks to
use recent departmental archives, the department head gives me a
sign that he wishes that I would find an archival excuse for turning
down the request, since he does not wish to hurt the person's feelings.
We never give anyone permission to make a general search of such
collections of papers. Sometimes we tell the readers that we trust
them not to read beyond the point already approved. Reasonable
copying is allowed, but permission must be obtained to publish any
quotation from this recent material.
The majority of the users of our reading room come to consult
doctoral dissertations. As you know, the ancient theory in regard to
such theses holds that the dissertation is the contribution to human
knowledge by which a scholar has earned his degree, and is the
university's proof that he earned it. Obviously the thesis must be
"published," in the sense of being made available to the public, to
accomplish these purposes.
In my university a couple of the largest departments have the
reprehensible habit of assigning the candidates topics which will take
a lifetime of research, and of accepting as dissertations what are no i
more than preliminary studies of these topics. Obviously these theses"
cannot be made available to the public without running the risk of
injury to the author's literary rights. Of course this prospect of
injury is greatly exaggerated. Many a young author, fully believing
that the library is full of lurking scholars ready to steal and publish
his ideas, thus forestalling the publication of his Great Work, demands
that we sequester his dissertation. Actually, such sequestration is
usually more harm than protection to the authors. There are in
Cambridge a few departments which play along with these shy
authors by ruling that the theses cannot be consulted without the
author's permission for a period of five years. This is a point on
which authors are so sensitive that we do not make exceptions even
when college presidents come in examing theses as a step in the hiring
of the writers. There seems to be a certain fatality which dictates
the fact that when some young Ph.D. disappears into the jungle, a
college president immediately wants to see his thesis.
Many of the dissertations really are sensitive. Among those on
our shelves are ones dealing with living politicians in foreign
countries, and others reporting most unflattering surveys of American
cities. One of these really got me into trouble, and I report the
experience as a warning to other university archivists.
A request for the interlibrary loan of a certain thesis came
via the President's office. Only this curious course caused me to
look at the thesis. I found that it had to do with the habits of a certain
social group in the South, and that its circulation had been originally
restricted by the then head of the Department of Sociology. This
restriction had run its five year course, but the professor who had
placed it was not available to advise me. Since the loan request
came from the president of a southern university, it seemed to me
to be discreet to report that the thesis was restricted. The college
president was not so easily discouraged, however. He flew up to
Cambridge, walked into our reading room, asked for the thesis, and
was handed it by the attendant, who noticed, correctly, that the re-
striction had run out. The president read the thesis, rubbed his
hands gleefully when he had finished, and told the reading room at- |
tendant, "I'm going straight home and fire the author; he is one of my
professors." And so he did. And so the author of the thesis
threatened that he was going to sue me for having published it.
Had the author done so, it would have been an interesting case,
for we inform all doctoral degree recipients that the University re-
serves the right to make available to the public, and to copyright,
any thesis or prize paper still unpublished five years after the date
of its acceptance. It is our custom to tell would-be poachers that the
University reserves the copyright on all theses and prize papers,
and, at times, fear of the University lawyers has thus protected this
For those of us handling this kind of literary property, the
Copyright Law Revision Part 2. Discussion and Comments on Re-
ports of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the
U.S. Copyright Law just issued, offers little encouragement. 1 Ap-
parently the doctoral candidate will still have to rely on Justice
Joseph Story's definition of literary property, and his own reservation
of copyright, or else have two extra copies of his thesis made to
deposit for copyright registration. The law is anything but clear, so
a university archivist may well find himself spending more time on
the problem created by doctoral dissertations, if these are within
his purview, than on any other one segment of his duties.
Indeed, the dissertations begin to trouble me before they are
written. As the candidates think up new questions, we are called
upon to revise the regulations for writing of theses. The dean's
office long ago gave up trying to answer questions as to suitable
paper, satisfactory methods of reproducing the texts, and even the
kind of paste to be used in attaching the illustrations. Frequently a
student will argue that the ribbon copy of his thesis must be destroyed
in the duplicating process, and he will often maintain that only a
certain, usually non-permanent, process, can be used for this or that
reason. We find it very useful to have some very strict rules in print
so that we can make a great point of concession when we want to
distract the candidate's attention from some really important rule
which we are enforcing. One mistake which we have made has been
to permit the candidates to submit various kinds of electro-print
copies for the first, or record, copies of their theses. We have found
by sad experience that good microfilm copies cannot be made from
many of these substitutes; that there is nothing like the first ribbon
copy of a manuscript for making reproductions.
The specifications of the kind of paper on which dissertations
are typed have given us great trouble. An examination of the theses
which arrive in any lot show every kind of variation in the paper
stock, most of them, I believe, honest errors made by the students in
their interpretation of our specifications. The one way to obtain the
use of a uniform paper of good quality is obviously to require the
candidate to use a particular brand and weight, but no widely ob-
tainable commercial brand has permanence, good folding strength,
and proper surface qualities. Last year the representative of the
Crane Company of Dalton, Massachusetts, over the last century the
most important manufacturers of bank note paper, suggested that they
box a suitable standard paper for dissertations, and so label it. We
agreed that the idea was good, and had their sample tested for acidity.
The report shocked and horrified them. Protesting that we were
making too much of acidity, they went to work and made up a special
batch of thesis paper for us. Sent to Richmond for testing, this
sample soon had the excited experts on the telephone, reporting that
the paper was actually alkaline as well as having the best folding
strength of any typewriting paper they had ever seen. I have used
all of the commercially produced typewriter papers recommended by
this laboratory, and Crane's new paper is much the best. It is not
as erasable as Ph.D. candidates could wish, but the more erasable
papers have much more serious drawbacks. Our present thinking is
to have this paper marketed under the trade name Crane's Thesis
Paper. Presumably any university can have its stock labeled with its
The ordinary administrative office uses permanent and ex-
pensive paper for its letterhead, and any cheap and highly acid paper
for the carbon copies to be kept in its own files. Our Harvard pur-
chasing agent has several times told the departmental offices that it
has good second sheet material available for them, but apparently
many prefer to do their own purchasing and buy the second sheet
stock on the basis of color. In our university, no one wants to issue
orders, but I can see no other solution to the problem.
The inquiries which our Cambridge office receives by mail
from the general public take up a great part of our time. All of the
offices of the University have become accustomed to forwarding to
us to answer all questions relating to the past of the University, to its
graduates, and to American history. This is a significant public
relations service on which office secretaries used to waste hours of
time because they did not have the necessary knowledge and the tools
to find the answers. So many of the questions are recurring that we
keep an index relating to the most popular ones. We have developed
a vast attic of odds and ends of irrelevant historical fact from which
we can sometimes produce information with what appears to the un-
initiated to be miraculous efficiency. I remember that once when
Perry Miller chanced to remark that he could not find the correspond-
ence of an obscure non-Harvard man on whom he was working, we
remembered that it was printed in a rare genealogy. We gracefully
accepted his lyrical published praise of our efficiency without telling
him that this was just one of those happy accidents.
Many of these questions have no relation to Harvard at all, but
we are in the best position to field inquiries relating, for example, to
witches and signers of the Declaration of Independence. Many people
write to the President of Harvard University as a sort of historical
oracle, asking questions on the most diverse subjects. Usually we
can satisfy them. In our own offices we keep a small reference
collection containing such commonly used works as the alumni
catalogs of other universities and the publications of the New England
Historic Genealogical Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society,
and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. On the floors below our
offices in the Widener Library building are the collections of
American genealogy and history from which we answer many ques-
tions quickly and painlessly. A few years ago when it was proposed
to move the Harvard Archives to a building of their own some blocks
away, I said that it was a fine idea from an administrative point of
view, but that I would resign if it was carried out, because I would not
want to have to give up the general reference service.
The most frequently asked of these mail-order questions is,
"Did my grandfather go to Harvard ?" Sometimes by asking for
further information on grandfather, we can identify him as the
graduate of another institution. Often we are asked to provide legal
proof of citizenship, as in cases where a widow is trying to qualify
for a pension. As birth records were not kept in some states before
1890, our admissions records have been most useful. Government
offices and insurance companies have never refused to accept as
legal evidence photostats of autograph documents in which a student
recorded his date and place of birth and his parentage. Sometimes
a graduate's correspondence with his class secretary has been used
to establish his mental competence at a particular time.
Requests by relatives for student grades of a century ago call
for considerable translating on our part to establish their significance.
Requests for grades less than fifty years old we refer to the proper
administrative office so that they can evaluate the legal responsibility
involved. Sometimes when old grads ask for their own grades in order
to impress later generations, they are shocked and deflated.
Scholars frequently ask for the records of the use of the library
made by the men in whom they are interested. It is certainly a re-
quest which deserves service, and it can be met without too much
difficulty for the period when the library was open for only a few
hours a week, and the charging records were kept in a book. With the
advent of charging cards, this type of material became too voluminous,
so we authorized its destruction. If such records were available, we
would have to duplicate the list of books charged out by John F.
For the early period of our history, we sometimes have requests
for the costs of a student's education, or a statement as to who paid
the bills. Although this kind of material is often significant for
seventeenth and eighteenth century graduates, I hope that this does
not encourage you to inquire as to the cost of Henry Thoreau's
education, certainly a legitimate question.
Questions relating to the history of the University, and as to
the state of knowledge on curriculum subjects, are all legitimate, and
can be classed only as reasonable, or unreasonable, possible, or im- j
possible. We cannot, for example, undertake to discover the first
impact of a book or of a particular concept in physics. When such
requests require more research than we can put into them, we can
usually satisfy the inquirer that this is so. In regard to the questions
that have no relevancy to Harvard, we answer them if reference to one
or two books in the general collection of the University Library will
supply the answer. Actually, a majority of such questions are so
easily answerable by anyone well acquainted with the source material
and reference works of American history that it would be unreasona-
ble not to put in twenty minutes or so of research.
Of course it is often difficult to draw the line between reasona-
ble and unreasonable. One lady who was writing a club paper on the
history of universities asked for a thumbnail sketch of mine. I re-
plied, courteously I thought, referring her to a readily available
source, but she replied in anger that all of the rest of the archivists
had sent to her synopses of the histories of their universities, so she
had simply omitted Harvard from the history of American higher
A particularly annoying group of requests come from grade
school students who have been encouraged by their teachers to do
research by writing in for general information on leading American
figures. My staff, thinking that I am discourteous in throwing such
letters in the wastebasket, now regularly intercept them and answer
them politely. More troublesome are the professors in distant uni-
versities who assign to the members of their classes such topics as
the speech- education of various nineteenth century literary figures.
Of course such research could be carried out only in the archives of
the universities in which those literary figures were educated. It
would consume far more time than we would devote to even important
We are sometimes asked by other university archivists what
reference use statistics we keep. The answer is simple, practically
none. We have kept them for short periods to see how we spent our
time, but in general we have found that the useful information which
we needed could be combed from charge slips and use-permission t
So far as I personally am concerned, there are two joys in the
life of an archivist. The first is the bringing order out of chaos.
After that, except for making decisions as to preservation, the work
of the archivist would be dull routine were it not for the function of
finding the answers to the amazing questions asked sometimes by
our administrators, but usually by the public.
1. U. S. Copyright Office. Copyright Law Revision Part 2.
Discussion and Comments on Reports of the Register of Copyrights
on the General Revision of the U. S. Copyright Law. Washington,
U. S. Government Printing Office, 1963.
A SCHOLAR'S VIEW OF UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
Laurence R. Veysey
While working on "The Emergence of the American University,
1865-1910," for my doctoral dissertation in American history at the
University of California at Berkeley, I visited the archives of eleven
leading universities. My study was an investigation of major trends
in thinking about the ideal nature of the university in this formative
period of university education in America, and it was also a compara-
tive look at the actual policies and practices of about a dozen leading
academic institutions during this fast-changing span of time.
The word "comparative" should be emphasized. The aim was
to see all, or almost all, of the major academic establishments side
by side, to see what they had in common and in what respects certain
of them might truly claim to be unique. It was for this reason that
I had an unusually wide contact with university archives.
Many scholars in the past have gone through the archival
material for one university, usually their own, and on the basis of it
written a history of that particular university. This procedure has
resulted in some very fine volumes of academic institutional history,
although it has also sometimes resulted in the uninspired chronicles
which we are all familiar with, the kind that are often produced for
academic anniversaries. When using just one archive, however, the
author of such a local history never really knows in what respects
he is merely recording what was typical of almost any academic
establishment at a certain point in time, or in what respects he is
dealing with situations that are unusual and deserve to be singled out
for major attention. To try to overcome this difficulty the sense of
handicap that comes from restricting oneself to any single institution,
be it Harvard or be it a state teachers college this speaker set out
to use many archives. The experience provided a comparative view
of American universities in the late nineteenth century and a similarly
broad view of American university archives in the present day.
Before turning directly to the archives as a scholar happened
to see them, it should be pointed out how the use of eleven archives,
rather than one, contributed directly to a better understanding on my
part of the American university in the late nineteenth century. The
experience of using the eleven archives together taught me that it is
The author is a faculty member of the Department of History, Harvard
University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
extremely wrong to think of a university archive as relevant only to
the history of the institution which happens to house it. For example,
it is incorrect to think that the Yale University archive is relevant
only to the history of Yale. Because incoming letters more often
tend to be saved than do carbon copies of outgoing ones, the average
collection of correspondence will tend to be richer in materials ar-
riving from other locations than it will be in materials which reflect
the activities of the home base. Now, of course, presidential files
contain so much in the way of inter-office memoranda that it would
be wrong to underestimate their richness for documenting the
histories of their own institutions. But every archive will have
wonderful "finds" in terms of letters relevant to the history of other
universities. Thus, to name just one example, some of the best
material on the University of California in the 1870's and 1880's
exists in the form of letters to be found in the James B. Angell
papers at the University of Michigan. And in the reverse direction,
the George H. Howison papers at the University of California contain
some of the most candid descriptions of the Harvard department of
philosophy in the days of William James and Josiah Royce, simply
because several graduate students at Harvard wrote back to Howison,
their undergraduate mentor, with their impressions and observations
of Harvard, since Howison was an entire continent away. Or, to take
one more case, some of the most major documents in the Edward
A. Ross academic freedom case of 1900, which involved the adminis-
tration of Stanford University, are to be found today in the archives
of Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, and, of course, the University of
Wisconsin. This point should be rather obvious since all it means is
that university presidents and professors were constantly writing to
each other. But the result is that just about every major university
archive should be combed by anyone doing a history of any other
university. Or, to put it another way, each university archive is an
extremely valuable depository of information, potentially at least, for
every other major academic institution.
This fact has certain further consequences. For one thing, it
means that unfavorable and controversial documents cannot be
restricted or held from view nearly as easily as might otherwise
be assumed. The university which restricts access to some of its own
holdings cannot be assured that scholarly silence will result; instead,
it must be prepared to accept the consequences of a history written
on the basis of the materials which can be found at other archival
locations. This material, by its nature, is often more gossipy and
less fair to the institution's side of the story than is the material to
which the institution is restricting access in its own archives. Thus
the fact that incoming letters make all archives relevant to the history
of all academic institutions means, in the first place, that there should
be a reduced incentive on the part of any archive (or any academic
administration) to inhibit the use of its own archival material. To do
so may only result in a poorer, more distorted history being written
on the basis of the fascinating but partial material which is available
in other locations.
But, secondly, the fact that no archive tells just one institution's
story has another, more important consequence. It means that every
university archive should be conceived as a depository of materials
which are national, not local, in scope. There is a frequent tendency,
illustrated perhaps most splendidly at Cornell, to link university
archives with local or regional history. Often this is a thoroughly
logical combination in terms of practical and budgetary considera-
tions, and it is also true that much of the material in an academic
archive does tend to have only a local value. But this is not the
whole story, and in fact I am going to argue that this is not an ar-
chive's most important role. Again the incoming correspondence,
which indeed may sometimes even be world-wide in scope, makes
any academic archive a national institution. Every scholar, every
professor is part of a national network of scholarship in his own
area or discipline indeed, especially in the sciences, part of a world
network. Every administrator, every president is similarly part of
a national network of academic institutions, public and private, which
have all sorts of mutual ties and relationships. Even a memorandum
which is purely local and intra-campus in its apparent scope may
illustrate a method of handling a certain problem or of setting a
policy on a basic matter which will strike the academic historian as
having truly national significance. Or, to put this last point another
way, both the similarities and the variations which purely "local"
material of any sort may reveal have a very broad significance. In
this respect academic history is not different from economic history
or the history of religion. The records of a local business firm, or
of a local church, may hold some interest in terms of the particular
community of which they are a part. But they are more apt to be
prized for the light they throw on how an enterprise or how a religious
congregation conducted itself at a certain period of time in America.
And it is precisely this sort of significance which is the most importan
one, in all probability, for the files of most academic institutions.
In summary, any university archive is an archive of at least national
scope, and in two different ways first, because of its incoming
letters, which actually document the history of geographically distant
people and institutions; second, because of the broader illustrative
significance of material which may seem, at first, to be merely local
material. Now, of course, in practice all this will depend on the
richness of holdings of an archive. But even a new archive, beginning
with nothing, will soon have material in it of this potentially broader
significance. In fact, it is almost inevitable, for American univer-
sities are going to be extremely interesting institutions in the late
twentieth century, and not all the excitement is going to escape being
set down on paper. Any institution, new or old, is going to be part of
this American academic landscape of the late twentieth century.
Fifty or a hundred years later, the "local" significance of the ma-
terial saved in a new archive may have vanished, along with the last
survivors who can remember the individuals involved. But these
"local" records are the stuff of which national social and institutional
history is later constructed.
This brings us to a final point suggested by the research I did
in the history of the American university in its formative period.
Each university archive is a gold mine for the histories of other
academic institutions and is deserving of a national rather than local
conception of its role, regardless of how young an archive it is. In
addition, the value of university archives for research in intellectual
history the history of ideas as distinct from the history of institu-
tions should be emphasized. Here, of course, interest centers on the
collections of the papers of prominent professors housed in archives.
Although the late nineteenth century was a period when it was easy to
get a speech published in pamphlet form if you were a professor,
since printing costs were cheap, it is surprising how many speeches-
some in typescript and some in longhand from that time one en-
counters in archive collections which were probably never published
in any form. For the natural scientists and the social scientists,
especially, these unpublished speeches, which exist only in the ar-
chives, are of great value for the historian of ideas. For example,
the papers of Thomas C. Chamberlin are at the University of Chicago.
An astronomer and geologist, Chamberlin had an extremely keen
mind and gave many addresses, a number of which were not published,
in such areas as the relations between science and religion. It is
only thanks to the archive at the University of Chicago that the
philosophical observations of this unusually important and alert
figure in the natural science of his day have been preserved. Then,
too, one finds a good deal of material relevant to the history of ideas
in letters as well as speeches. All in all, the university archives,
when they preserve faculty papers as well as presidential and official
files, are major repositories of source material in American intel-
lectual history. As this fact becomes more apparent, the use of the
archives from this point of view is bound to increase.
Here a practical suggestion or two should be interposed. The
first is a rather general one, namely that a university archivist
should be especially active in soliciting materials personal papers
from the academic faculty, as distinct from the official record-
keeping organizations in the university. These need not be the papers
of well-known or famous professors. One of the most important gaps
I sensed in visiting archives was in precisely this area, particularly
for professors of the late nineteenth century. Only at Harvard, and to
a lesser extent at Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Wisconsin, and Chicago,
are the materials truly rich in this area. It is too late to do much
about the late nineteenth century in this respect, but many of the most
interesting American professors are still very much alive today,
either teaching or in retirement, and they should be encouraged to
turn over papers to the archives. The late twentieth century, into
which we are moving, is going to be regarded as one of the richest
and most fascinating periods of American history, and in particular
of American intellectual history. It is not too late to begin capturing
and preserving a record of the life of the mind as it goes on in the
universities of this period. Nor is it only a few very well-known
faculty people whose papers that is, personal correspondence,
speeches, and so on are worth preserving. We need a sense of the
average as well as a record of the great and the unusual. Fifty and
a hundred years from now, historians will want to know what it was
like to have been a professor in late twentieth- century America.
They will want to know what professors did and what they thought,
in not just one but every conceivable academic discipline. It may
seem a bit far-fetched, but just as at Harvard, every professor who
is given a tenure position at a university should be contacted by the
archivist, at the time he is given tenure, and urged to donate his
papers to the university archive, either upon retirement or in his
will. Meantime, if that has not been done, and there is a backlog of
living professors of all ages who have not been contacted by the ar-
chivist for this purpose, these people should be appealed to systemat-
ically. Of course a professor has every right to destroy his personal
papers. But enough men will doubtless be willing to donate them,
perhaps after preliminary weeding, to make the archives far richer
than they now seem to be in this kind of material.
In answer to this suggestion, it may be objected that facilities
are not available for housing and maintaining the papers of large
numbers of professors, which would multiply enormously as the years
passed. To this sort of objection I can only reply that the storage
problem is a physical one which falls outside the scope of my re-
marks (And microfilm works wonders, of course.) . It can only be
stressed that it would be greatly desirable to get such a large-scale
program under way, within the limits of whatever means are availa-
ble. It is the papers of professors which will, without a doubt, be
given the highest value by the scholars who make use of archives
during the decades to come. This is not just because the men who
will use the archives and write the histories are themselves profes-
sors, and so have a biased inclination in that direction. Instead it is
because of the basic fact that academic institutions are far more
similar to each other than are academic disciplines. Therefore,
although the official files and papers which record the progress of an
institution are extremely important, there does ultimately tend to be
a sameness about them which will make them relatively less inter-
esting a hundred years from now. Of course, the official files of an
institution should be preserved in the archive. And these files, with
their value for the administrative history of that institution, have an
importance which far transcends the level of merely local history.
But these official files, from president, dean, and regents or trustees,
will ultimately have far less that is distinctive, original, imaginative,
and exciting in them, than will a similar amount of cubic space de-
voted to professors' papers. And, furthermore, in practical terms,
the official files are usually easy to get. Indeed, at a few institutions
one faintly begins to suspect that the archive has been made little
more than a kind of attended storage vault for such materials.
For these reasons, it is urged that archivists go about actively
seeking to balance collections with the papers of professors, in as
wide a variety of the disciplines as possible. For it may be well
argued that the highest function of a university archive is to attempt
to preserve as full a record as possible of the thinking that has gone
on at a particular campus. This means a record of the thinking of
professors, in the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social
sciences. It also means a record of the thinking of administrative
figures about the nature and role of the institution they superintend.
Because the academic disciplines are more varied, one from another,
and because their thinking tends to be more abstract, a record of
academic thought will be given the highest degree of attention a half
century or a century from now. And this record of academic thought
will be most of all a professorial record. It is here where a better
job could be done by the university archives than is now being done
at most campuses.
Soliciting the papers of the faculty on a large scale is one im-
portant way of correcting this imbalance. There are other ways too.
One is by making a better effort to gather the published speeches
and articles of local faculty members, as part of an archival under-
taking. Very often when such speeches appear in obscure or unlikely
places, they are going to be overlooked later. This is one rather easy
means of expanding the archive's holdings in the area of professorial
thought. All members of the local faculty might be asked to send one
reprint of each of their publications to the university archive as a
regular matter of policy, to be enforced by frequent reminders, and
excepting only major books which are easily accessible in a library.
Also, the equivalent of a local oral history project devoted to profes-
sors should be started. Now that tape is so easy to use and to store,
there is every reason to collect academic thought in this form. Here,
of course, a problem presents itself concerning the selection of a
willing and able interviewer. Because many archivists would not feel
themselves qualified to do the interviewing, and because most profes-
sors might find it difficult outside their own disciplines, this program
may be difficult to launch. But if there is anyone available in a
particular discipline who will interview some of his colleagues, the
result may repay all the labors involved. Indeed, one could picture a
kind of forum, or group discussion, participated in by all the members
of a department at a particular institution. In such a discussion,
recorded by tape, the department members could engage in a free
appraisal of the state of their own discipline, and even (if there were
a sufficient atmosphere of trust) an appraisal of their own university!
In this last connection, though, perhaps the results would be more
honest and more comprehensive if such a group were to appraise
other universities and simply skip over their own!
These, then, are a few specific ideas about how one might try
to correct the existing overbalance in most university archives in
favor of administrative materials, and instead center the archive to
a larger extent on faculty materials. But we should be less concerned
with the techniques than with the basic point that it is the worth of
the archive for intellectual history, primarily for the history of the
various academic disciplines, which is going to be the most permanent
worth of any university archive. If the university presidents of our
own day were commanding figures such as Charles W. Eliot or Wood-
row Wilson, this judgment might be less confidently rendered. But,
as things go, there appears to be no doubt that the faculty as a group
will seem far more interesting than academic administrators as a
group, when both are glimpsed in retrospect a hundred years from
now. Furthermore, the materials dealing with the various academic
disciplines will contain far more excitement per pound, so to speak,
than materials dealing with the pyramid of academic bureaucracy.
The various observations and suggestions made up to this point
stem from my particular experiences as a researcher, visiting ar-
chives in order to gather material for a dissertation. During this
experience, however, I learned something about the universities'
history and also about twentieth- century American university archives.
Therefore, let me present a direct view of university archives, at
least as they struck one scholar not too long ago.
When traveling from archive to archive in 1960, usually spend-
ing somewhere between one and three weeks working in each, it was
possible to compare the archives of the major institutions. The
requirements of my research were essentially the same everywhere,
so as I kept posing the same questions and demands I could not help
noting variations in the way these demands were met. Now, of course,
I was treated courteously almost everywhere, and in most cases the
archival staff went out of its way to be of help. So I do not mean
variations at that level. But there were fairly well-marked varia-
tions in terms of what might be called the style and atmosphere of a
university archive. In fact, when my trip was finished I felt that the
archives in which I had worked could be classified into three basic
types, each quite different from the others. The first type could be
called the "old shoe" archive, an archive with a well-worn, com-
fortable, traditional flavor, where nothing is too tidy and yet every-
thing fits and is easily accessible. The "old shoe" archive is usually
run by one person who gives it a strong sense of individual dedication
and direction and who has been around for a long time, and knows
many of the professors, perhaps even the presidents, from personal
contact. This person knows from memory where everything is
located and, not only that, has a fairly pronounced idea of how much
use it has. Stepping into this kind of archive, one has the feeling of
entering into the archivist's own domain a domain that is almost
personal in its character. The archivist has brought this world into
being and, perhaps even a bit jealously, stands guard over it, main-
taining its integrity against the sense of intrusion. Usually such an
archivist has a deep sense of loyalty to the institution.
In contrast to the "old shoe" archive, the second type of archive
was marvelously well appointed. The "old shoe" archive had usually
been down at the heels; not the second kind, though, which is peculiar
to the East Coast, so far as I know, and which might be called the
"Ivy League" archive. Here the custodianship of documents has been
associated with a literary quality of prestige. The archive is ar-
ranged with what might be called an Anglican air of formality. Where-
as the "old shoe" archive had been an almost private world, reflect-
ing the personal knowledge and will of the archivist, the "Ivy League"
archive was a public domain, a world of portraits and portfolios on
open display. Here the constant effort seemed to be to make a certain
impression. In the "old shoe" archive the visiting scholar had once
in a while threatened harshly to intrude into the archivist's day-
dreams, but in the "Ivy League" archive the danger was rather that a
visiting scholar might in effect regard the contents of the display
cases with an ungentlemanly seriousness.
There was, however, a third kind of archival atmosphere, one
probably more common than either of the first two. This was what
could be called the spirit of the "professional" or "bureaucratic" ar-
chive. In the "professional" archive, service is rendered in an im-
personal manner to all alike. Files and indexes and coding systems
abound. Precision and classification are the watchwords. The
archivist is neither a one-man ruler nor a litterateur, but rather an
official with certain stated public duties and responsibilities.
These are the three types of archival atmospheres I detected,
however, practically no archive partook exclusively of only one set of
characteristics as I have described them. These three types repre-
sent tendencies only. For instance, to name only the Harvard archive,
whose excellence is so proverbial, one finds at Harvard something of
the "Ivy League" sense of dignity and formality, something of the
comfortable working atmosphere described as "old shoe," and then,
in addition, the best indexing and the best and most elaborate job of
classifying materials encountered anywhere on my journey. These
last traits are the hallmarks of the "bureaucratic" or "professional"
attitude. And most of the other major archives would similarly
provide a blend of characteristics, although a bit less strikingly.
Still, these can be recognized as definite types of atmosphere,
possibly in libraries as a whole as well as in archives. Which, then,
if he had any choice in the matter, would the scholar prefer ? Would
he find his needs better served by the "old shoe" archive, or by the
more genteel one, or finally by the "bureaucratic" one? Emotionally,
on first reaction, many scholars would opt for the "old shoe" atmos-
phere of informality and traditionalism. Bureaucracy is a bad word,
and nobody is supposed to like it. But actually, as one thinks the
matter over, one begins strongly to suspect that the ideal archive,
from the scholar's point of view, might lie about halfway along the
spectrum from the patriarchal to the "professional." One certainly
does want the respect for efficiency, the sense for arrangement, the
careful cataloging, and so on, which are rightly identified with a
professional attitude of responsibility. A filing cabinet is better than
an archivist's memory, even if the archivist has been around for
several decades. Yet on the other hand one also wants the ready
knowledgeability about contents, the "feel" for substance, the
familiarity with the local scene, and the willingness to cut some
corners occasionally on matters of procedure, in order to speed
things up reasonably all of these qualities being identified with what
has been labeled the "old shoe" archive. Perhaps, then, halfway in
between these imaginary polar opposites one might get the virtues of
both and the liabilities of neither. At any rate, it is this sort of blend
which most scholars would appreciate.
And this brings me directly to the final point. What does the
scholar really want from an archive ? How does an archive look to
the scholar who is interested in working with its materials ? The
scholar appears to want two things first, and more than anything
else, efficient working conditions; second, a minimal sense, at least,
of warmth and sympathetic helpfulness. But let us try to make the ^
scholar's needs a bit more vivid by picturing the life of such a scholar
for instance a graduate student working on his dissertation, as he goes
on a research trip which may include university archives.
For the younger scholar, unless he has private means or un-
usual foundation support, the matter of his budget while on the research
trip becomes all important. The most important single item in his
budget is the length of time necessary for the trip. This is time
spent away from home, and, unless he has friends to stay with in the
city where the research is being done, every day spent in an archive
means another night's hotel bill. This rather primitive economic
motive lies behind the mood of frenzy which can sometimes overtake
the young scholar while he is at work in the archive, particularly if
he finds far more material to "get through" than he had first im-
agined. In order to conquer the most material in the least amount of
time, the scholar will make all sorts of fine calculations and what
seem like petty demands on the archival staff. First of all, unless he
is an extremely slow typist, he will certainly want to type his notes
while looking through the documents. He will be concerned as to
what hours the archive is open. Indeed, he will often do his long
distance traveling ( from one archive to another) on a weekend, so as
not to waste the hours the archive is open. And of course he will
expect documents to be delivered to his desk with a rapidity unknown
in European archives simply because he has experienced the effi-
ciency of American libraries and has based his expectations upon this
sort of standard.
Bearing all this in mind, you can probably picture the young
scholar arriving on a Sunday evening in the city where the archive
is located, checking into a cheap hotel or a rooming house or staying
with friends, and getting ready perhaps by going over his notes to
recall the various collections he already knows about and wishes to
see, figuring in advance the most efficient order of business. Upon
arriving at the archives the next morning, he will initially examine
the working set-up, inquire about typing, and surreptitiously discover
whether he must rent a typewriter from a local shop or whether an
extra machine from the archive office will be lent to him, as some-
times is the case. Next he will want to make an informal assessment
of the archive's holding in the areas of his own interest. At this stage
he will be completely dependent on whatever catalogs, indexes, lists,
and so on, the archive has been able to maintain, in conjunction, of
course, with the archivist's memory. This process of preliminary
assessment may take anywhere from a few hours to a day and a half,
depending on the complexity of the categories of information that are
relevant to the scholar's research. He is anxious to reduce this time
to the minimum, so as to get his actual research under way. Here
the existence of intelligent indexes and summaries can be of enormous
help. Even a bare list of the names of all the correspondents of a
man whose papers are in the archive can help greatly. And it is at
this point that the "old shoe" sort of familiarity with the materials
on the part of the archivist can really save important amounts of
time, hence contribute, ironically enough, to the efficiency that one
also associates with the impersonal card file. When this preliminary
process is finished, the scholar will have emerged with a concrete
idea of his workload at this particular archive. Usually he will have
discovered more material than he originally thought would be relevant,
and so his sense of anxiety at getting through the boxes as rapidly as
possible will have become heightened.
Next, usually with his typewriter, the scholar will set up what
amounts to a production line. The documents will lie on one side,
the blank note cards on the other. The scholar will become a veritable
machine, plowing through boxes of documents, mentally sorting their
contents at a rapid pace into relevant pieces onto his cards. He will
usually work as if he were somehow possessed by a demon. All
scholars seem to agree that the weeks one spends in archival re-
search are a strange interlude in one's life, a unique form of exist-
ence never before experienced and perhaps impossible to duplicate
in any other way, even by the often equally intense task of doing a bit
of scholarly writing. Perhaps the most accurate way to picture the
silent scholar who sits with a remote look on his face at one cluttered
table in your archive is to think of him as a combine machine whose
owner is being paid at piecework rates, yet for whom there are severe
penalties if the quality of the ingestion is allowed to become slipshod.
The boxes of documents are rows of corn whose extent had been
surveyed at the preliminary stage already described. Now they are
being uprooted, sent through the machine, the husks thrown back, and
the occasional kernels being gathered onto those note cards. At the
end of a good day's work the worker stops wearily, noting with
satisfaction both the rising pile of note card kernels by his typewriter's
side and also the growing heap of husksa heap which is in his mind's
eye only, since the documents with which he has finished have
gradually been returned to the archive shelves.
The closing hour of the archive, incidentally, may not be the
end of the scholar's working day while on one of these trips. After
dinner the day's note cards may be sorted, so that this task will not
pile up at the end. Or the evening may be spent in the main library
stacks, running down books and pamphlets which were not obtainable
in other university libraries along the way. But this is not the uni-
form after-hour activity. After one of these days spent as a human
combine machine in the archives, the normal reaction is to want to
see a movie or else go quietly to bed. Still, the odds are that the
scholar averages a longer working day, as well as a more arduous
one, than does the archivist. The fact is that, while the archivist is
following a relatively steady routine, day in and day out, the visiting
scholar who sits in the archive is going through what is for him proba-
bly a rather rare experience, a peculiarly intense manner of life
which he might well find it difficult to sustain for longer than a few
weeks or months at a stretch.
All this, then, has been a plea for understanding. The wander-
ing scholar may seem to have an odd glint in his eye as the archivist
observes him; he may betray all manner of symptoms of impatience,
or he may at times lose the ability to speak coherently with the human
beings who happen to be around him, because he has become so
thoroughly immersed in the world of the documents. The archivist
should be tolerant. More than this, the scholar will be everlastingly
grateful to the archivist for all the small and large things which
enable the human combine machine to proceed eight hours a day at
top rate of speed. Efficiency, together with sympathetic understand-
ing, is what the scholar most of all seeks from a university archive.
This brief description of how the archive figures in the scholar's
life should make the scholar's sometimes desperate craving for
efficiency seem more comprehensible. If the archivist is aware of
the strange, speeded up life the scholar is enduring while on his re-
search trip, the archivist may find it possible to greet his sometimes
eccentric requests with exactly that sort of sympathetic understanding
which is the best known lubricant for these problems, even if it is not
a specifically professional one.
An archive exists, then, both for the actual scholar of the pres-
ent moment and for the potential scholar of a century from now, as
best we can visualize him. The present day scholar will always
insist that the archivist's primary duty is to posterity, to that
imagined scholar of the next century who may find a meaning in the
documents which we are unable to perceive. In the meantime, though,
the immediate visitor to an archive will be very much involved in the
prosaic problem of obtaining maximum poundage of document inspec-
tion for a given hotel bill. To cater to the wants of scholarship, the
archivist thus has both a lofty obligation and a seemingly prosaic
one. Scholarship asks that documents be actively and carefully col-
lected and preserved; it also asks that they be fed on momentary
demand into a human assembly line. Fortunately, the existing prac-
tices of the eleven university archives with which I am familiar show
that both the long-range and the short-range obligations to scholar-
ship, the major task of document preservation and the minor but vital
one of providing an atmosphere of efficiency and human sympathy,
are indeed mutually compatible. It is not really necessary to
sacrifice either goal to achieve the other. For the task of building
and maintaining a university archive has already been done most
splendidly in the past, and not just once but again and again. For this
fact the scholar of all people has the deepest reasons to be grateful.
PAPERS OF THE ALLERTON PARK INSTITUTES
The School Library Supervisor. Chicago,
American Library Association, 1956. $2.00.
Developing the Library's Personnel Pro-
gram. (Not published.)
The Nature and Development of the Library
Collection. Champaign, 111., The Illini Union
Bookstore, 1957. $2.00.
The Library as a Community Information
Center. Champaign, 111., The Illini Union
Bookstore, 1958. $2.00.
Public Library Service to the Young Adult.
The Role of Classification in the Modern
American Library. Champaign, 111., The
Illini Union Bookstore, 1960. $2.00.
Collecting Science Literature for General
Reading. Champaign, 111., The Illini Union
Bookstore, 1961. $2.00.
The Impact of the Library Services Act:
Progress and Potential. Champaign, 111.,
The Illini Union Bookstore, 1962. $2.00.
Number Nine November 1962
Selection and Acquisition Procedures in
Medium-Sized and Large Libraries.
Champaign, 111., The Illini Union Bookstore,
1963. $2.00, paper-cover; $3.00, cloth-cover.
Number Ten November 1963
The School Library Materials Center: Its
Resources and Their Utilization. C ham -
paign, 111., The Illini Union Bookstore, 1964.
$2.00, paper-cover; $3.00, cloth-cover.
Number Eleven November 1964
University Archives. Champaign, 111., The
Illini Union Bookstore, 1965. $2,00, paper-
cover; $3.00, cloth-cover.